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Friday, 27 April 2012

Why it's called Three Words

No, it's not 'I love you'.

It's because I was completely stuck at finding a good name for this blog and thought of all the blogs I love - Cupcakes & Cashmere, Into the Gloss, etc. They all had three words and as I tried out things like Chocolate & Strawberries, Sugar and Spice, I just couldn't find anything that sounded remotely good. Eventually I decided on 'three words' and thought that it successfully encompassed all the things that I wanted to write about - food, books, experiences, my musings and anything more that I would want to write about in the future.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Pear tarte tatin

I love this recipe: Even though it's one of those recipes that I always think is going horribly wrong whilst I'm cooking, it always seems to fall into place somehow. I made it yesterday and here are the results - not quite photogenic yet but still good to eat on a Sunday evening, the spices and brandy adding a touch of warmth. And that, below, is my kitchen, and my dog, Susie - a very cuddly cocker spaniel!

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Sigmund Freud: The essentials of psychoanalysis

Currently, I'm making my way through Sigmund Freud's 'The Essentials of Psychoanalysis' as part of my further reading for psychology. It was surprising to read the argument that Freud puts forward to the reader, the way that he challenges his own ideas as if presuming the reader's response. Whilst this was at some points a little patronising, it was actually very easy to read and comprehend. I could just imagine Freud sitting in a lovely little apartment in Vienna typing away at the keyboard, a true genius at work. His proposed Oedipus complex (the idea that young boys develop intense affection for their mothers but fear damaging their relationship with their father, leading to them relating to their father and developing his masculine characteristics) is perhaps so controversial because it dares to to take away our believed innocence of children; however, Freud admits this and suggests that he also slightly objects to the concept, even though he must have believed in it fervently.

What seems most fascinating, however, is the idea that 'the child is the parent of the adult'. I have a whole page of colourful notes devoted to the ego - what is, to quote Freud, a 'superficial facade lying between reality and the id', guarding against the danger that the id or subconsciousness ('a cauldron full of seething excitations', with a dominance of the pleasure principle and filled with instincts for hunger and love') might cause in trying to satisfy its want for pleasure. Here, Freud quotes Schiller, a German poet: 'hunger and love are what drives the world'. Whereas the 'super ego' pressurises the ego into controlling the id with moral principles that a child learns as they develop - instilling inside of them a sense of pride, punishing any bad feelings with guilt. Then there are the defence mechanisms, repressing unwanted thoughts into the subconsciousness, displacing feelings onto others, simple denial or identifying with someone else.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Is this the most beautiful advert ever?

Miss Dior Eau de Parfum

Okay... I know this advert has been popping up in magazines for months but it's still my favourite advert ever. Everytime I see it, I feel a little burst of happiness - Natalie Portman is just so beautiful and just because of this, I'm ashamed to say that I've been tempted to buy the Miss Dior eau de parfum. However, I have resisted. As Bridget Jones once said, 'I once read that you shouldn't go out with a man if you can think of three reasons not to', the eau de parfum is firstly, far too expensive when I have a whole list of things for summer to buy (including a few not-so-essential-things - I have my eye on a MAC lipstick, Benefit Sugarbomb blusher, Dior Addict lipgloss, Clinique Dramatically Different moisturiser, Burt's Bees milk & honey body lotion and bareminerals original SPF15 foundation); secondly, I just can't buy a perfume just because of the advert; and lastly, it smells gorgeous and expensive in the bottle but on me, it smells a little bit old-fashioned. For now then, I'm seriously thinking of buying a poster of the advert to put up on my wall...

Chocolate tiffin bars

This gorgeous recipe is another one borrowed. I babysit for a lovely family just up the road and made this with the kids - it was jotted down on a piece of notepaper and was their grandmother's recipe. It is really easy to make and perfect to pop in the treat tin for when guests arrive. However, as typical me, I have since lost the recipe. The amonts of each ingredient are rough estimations and if you do want to try this, feel free to add more or less of anything as you think fit.
 I scrunched some digestive biscuits - about half of a big pack - and blitzed in the Kenwood mixer until it has the texture of rough sand. I then melted a generous slice of butter in the microwave, added an awful lot of golden syrup - about six tablespoons - and three tablespoons Cadburys hot chocolate powder. Adding this to the biscuits, I then tipped in a handful of dark plump raisins and roughly chopped pecans.

In the meantime, I put a pan of water onto the heat and in a glass bowl, making sure the bottom did not touch the water, melted the milk chocolate in one bowl, occasionally swapping the bowl of milk chocolate with the bowl of white chocolate and so on until they are both melted. I then pressed the biscuits into a lined largish brownie tin and poured over the melted milk chocolate. I added dollops of the white chocolate and spread it with a spatula to add a pretty marbled finish - this bit is a little tricky to make sure the white chocolate doesn't simply disappear into the milk chocolate.

Pop in the fridge for a few hours or overnight and once set, it should come out with a gentle tap. Slice on a chopping board into small squares, arrange in a tin lined with a piece of kitchen paper and enjoy!

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Blueberry Hill, my dream bistro

I've been dreaming again of having a little bistro. I would call it Blueberry Hill and it would be lovely - having the comfort and simple pleasure of popping around a friend's for coffee, there would be a farmhouse kitchen feel to it, with scrubbed wooden tables with benches at either side - perfect for office or birthday parties - and smaller, more intimate table settings, each with a jug of freshly picked meadow flowers. In the morning, there'd be glossy baking pastries, bowls of fruit salad, good rich coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice. Then, there would only be a few things on the menu, all seasonal and freshly made. Think crab, fennel and chilli linguine as one of the mains, then a choice of gooey salted caramel chocolate fondant, English pear tarte tatin or apple pie creme brulee, served with clotted cream ice cream or homemade custard, speckled with grainy flecks of vanilla pod seeds. A girl can dream...

Psychology taster course at Nottingham University

The weekend before last, I attended a psychology taster course at Nottingham University and have been meaning to write a post about it ever since. It was a great experience; not only were the lectures incredibly good but it was also a valuable insight into student life. My heart’s always been set on a degree in English Literature but I wanted to look at other options as well, just to make sure I was doing the right thing for me. The emotional side of psychology really does interest me and it was this that the latter half of the taster course was based upon – things like the paranormal, criminal profiling and Freudian dream analysis. The dream analysis especially was useful to me as I was finishing off my book and analysing books in English Literature.
So, it’s still English for me. I've just managed to get two weeks of work experience at a PR and advertising agency in June, which I'm really excited about. There's just a lot of revision to do now for May exams (eep!) and my bedroom is plastered in colourful mind maps and sheets. I'm also trying to get my book, 'The Amethyst Bird', published by approaching literary agents - it's a young adult novel, based upon a world torn apart by war and about a boy, Harry, who is forced to survive by himself after the Authority takes away his mother. I've been writing books like that ever since I was about seven, from toys that escape their toy shop to live on an island to 'The Dog that Travelled Around the World' - complete with pictures made on Paint. I hope this one is a bit more grown-up than those last two though!

Sunday roast shoulder of lamb

I’m meant to be revising for my AS exams in May but have instead decided to spend this Sunday in the kitchen. After having a lie-in, fresh coffee and a flick through the Sunday Telegraph, I went to work on a recipe for shoulder of lamb. It was based on one dating back to 1660, written by Robert May in his book ‘The Accomplish’t Cook’. It was meant to have oysters added to the gravy but I decided not to include them, not only because to me, they taste of congealed sea water, but also because they would have doubled the cost of ingredients. Lamb is pricey enough anyway!

I bought a bone-in shoulder (weighing about 2.3kg), took it out of the fridge in the morning and seasoned it with 1 tablespoon finely chopped dried marjoram, the zest of 1 lemon, a generous grating of nutmeg and ¼ teaspoon salt. Once the shoulder was cooked, and it took about two hours in a hot oven, the gravy was made by returning 2 tablespoons of the fat to the roasting tin, heating gently and cooking a peeled and finely chopped shallot, just to soften, then by adding 1 tablespoon plain flour, stirring and cooking until lightly browned; once the roasting juices were stirred in to make a smooth gravy, some freshly boiled water was added from the kettle to make it go further but still be quite thick.

I served the lamb with dauphinoise potatoes made with an indulgent amount of cream, butter and cheese, then lightly steamed purple sprouting broccoli from the garden and carrots, parboiled then roasted in the oven in 3 tablespoons of redcurrant jelly mixed together with a dash of soy sauce and generous squeeze of sweet chilli sauce.

Crab, fennel and chilli linguine with crab toasts

I first had this crab linguine at the Alice Lisle Inn, a charming 18th century inn tucked away on a quiet gentle track in the New Forest. There was just a tiny spoonful of freshly chopped red chilli so not to overpower the delicate white crab meat, and a crab toast served beside it – essentially, a big soft chewy crouton smothered in crab pâté.

I used this recipe for the linguine (the first one on the page) but omitted the fennel seeds, using only the white crab meat and setting the brown crab meat aside for the pâté, as well as decorating each bowlful of pasta with a slice of red chilli.

For the crab toasts, I used this recipe for the pâté – made with an awful lot of butter – but used all brown crab meat and served it spread generously onto a thick slice of ciabatta, brushed with extra virgin olive oil and popped under the grill to crisp up.

To make it more colourful, I threw together some crispy green salad leaves –I love the sweetness and crunchiness of Romaine lettuce at the moment offset by the sharpness of watercress leaves – and served it up family-style on the table for people to help themselves. This is now my go-to main for summer entertaining at the moment just because it’s pretty easy to put together and delicious.

Monday, 9 April 2012

The universally acknowledged truth...

My lovely, gorgeous, beautiful dog Susie – who is happy to dance with me in the kitchen, listen to me serenade her with Whitney Houston’s ‘I will always love you’ and understands the universally acknowledged truth, that when times get tough, out comes the duvet, the tub of clotted cream ice cream and Bridget Jones.

Photograph          Victoria Williams

Baked raspberry cheesecake with gold glitter

I baked this raspberry cheesecake today, one of my go-to dinner party puds. I followed this recipe – – using blueberries as well as raspberries and adding a light dusting of edible gold glitter for a touch of glamour. This really is quite simple to make and very indulgent!
Photograph       Victoria Williams

'Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication'

The definition of simplicity is the ‘property, condition, or quality of being simple or uncombined’; the ‘absence of luxury or showiness… of affectation or pretence’, the ‘lack of sophistication or subtlety… of good sense or intelligence’, ‘the clarity of expression’ and ‘austerity in embellishment’. Suddenly, the abstract notion of simplicity becomes at once complicated and intricate – difficult to understand and perhaps even trickier to recreate. This quote of Leonardo da Vinci seems to make perfect sense if one thinks of those things in life that are so very simple yet so endearingly beautiful, like the dreamy gorgeousness of an idyllic summer: barefooting in pretty summer dresses through the long days and balmy evenings with joyful abandon, the rose-scented air heavy with possibility and the French windows thrown open to the warm sunshine.
However, if simplicity is by definition a ‘lack of sophistication’, it could be argued that this is a complete contradiction. Sophistication could be interpreted as a certain complexity but on the other hand, might also be understood as style and elegance. It is another abstract concept and is also very subjective; the spectacle of Gatsby’s parties in Fitzgerald’s novella, ‘The Great Gatsby’, where ‘men and girls [come] and [go] like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars’ might seem to one as the embodiment of luxury and sophistication, whilst to another, the ‘salads of harlequin designs… and turkeys bewitched to a dark gold’ might be seen as a vulgar show of immense wealth, much like the banquets given by Trimalchio in the ‘Satyricon’ of Petronius.
Sophistication might only be truly sophisticated when it is completely accidental; after all, things do seem more romantic when they’re spontaneous (please take note – I would love to be taken to Paris to drift around the exquisite patisseries and horribly expensive boutiques sometime please). One of the most beautiful and perhaps sophisticated kitchens I’ve ever been in lay inside one of the lovely old farmhouses in the village. Inside, there was a steaming crimson AGA where a copper pan of hot milk gently simmered and beside it, Green & Blacks dark chocolate ready to be tipped into the milk. A faded sofa – the favourite sleeping spot of several golden Labradors – was upholstered in a vintage fabric printed with delicate trailing flowers and tucked away beneath a low wooden beam. The hot chocolate was ladled out into chipped mugs and served with a plateful of homemade dark sticky ginger cake, rich with molasses and warm spice. Nothing in that kitchen was new or perfectly clean but it was so lovely and welcoming.

So to conclude my first post (a bit of a mish-mash really with me not really sure what to write about!) the best, sophisticated things in life are often the simplest. Of course, it has to be said that simplicity takes time, work and where material things are concerned, money – it’s ‘clarity of expression’ and ‘quality’ above ‘showiness’. Sometimes the things that seem simple to us are that way because they’re just right.