Much as I enjoy cooking I sometimes find actually working in a kitchen to be stressful and hellish. However, some days make all the long days and the smell of fryers and the burnt fingers worthwhile – like today when a plate came back with “Awesome” written on it in brown sauce. Kind and noble mystery diner of Glasgow, I salute you!
Weekends are really things that happen to other people when you work in bars – however I have enjoyed doing some weekend-y things recently. Yesterday I went to the new velodrome in the East End to see the qualifying rounds of the Track World Cup:
Very exciting to see this in real life especially when you see the hellish height and steepness of the bankings – yikes! Apparently they let punters on it when they aren’t hosting world championship events… Must investigate further…
That evening the splendid Paul was dressed like a character in a Godard film and had brought boeuf bourguignon, buttered macaroni and red wine up to the flat – just when I thought I couldn’t like him any more. Soppy. Dreadful.
This morning I spent longer than anticipated grappling with a 1970’s oven whilst baking cakes for the Glasgow Stationery Co.‘s Xmas perty held in the basement cafe of Rig Bike Shop on West Regent Street. We had a chocolate beetroot cake with framboise icing and edible cornflower petals (oooOOOOooo!) (of which more later) and this Spanish classic:
This is a traditional cake eaten in Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, the end of the pilgrim route (which in medieval times was up there with Rome and Jerusalem in terms of hardcore pilgrimages) . It should really have a fiddly cross stencilled on the top in icing sugar but I decided against that considering it had to be transported across Sauchiehall St wrapped in a flimsy sheet of tinfoil. This cake is an absolute skoosh to make and tastes superb – the almonds make it moist with a grand texture and the citrus zest flavour is just the right level of subtle. I’m really not a subtlety hand but in this case you wouldn’t want anything more from a cake. Claudia Roden’s recipe (found here along with loads of other tantalising Spanish dishes – quail with caramelised onions and brandy mmm) asks you to grind whole almonds but due to blender issues (lack of one) I used pre-ground and it turned out fine. Incidentally here is a very familiar tale from the National Geographic of a guy walking this gruelling route and feeling pretty sorry for himself before having his sense of solidarity and general happiness restored by a plate of trout. Know the feeling pal!
- 250g almonds
- 6 eggs, separated
- 250g caster sugar
- 1 orange, zested
- 1 lemon, zested
- 4 drops almond extract
As mentioned, an absolute skoosh: beat the egg yolks and sugar until pale and creamy. Mix in the zest, almond essence and ground almonds. In another bowl beat the egg whites into stiff peaks. Fold the egg whites into the almond mixture; the almond one is very thick so you do have to give it a good mix. I feared this would undo the work of beating those egg whites (by hand yo!) but it turned out fine, the cake didn’t rise a great deal but it was never really going to with all those almonds involved.
Fire it into a greased & floured 28cm cake tin and bake at Gas Mk. 4 for 40 minutes or until a knife comes out clean. I just gave it a wee dusting of icing sugar and some extra zest over the top – utterly restrained and classy!
James didn’t win the Bake-Off but I didn’t mind due to the unexpected revelation that he was a show-off Unionist in the final – shocker! I like my wooly-jumpered men to be ardent Nationalists thanks very much…
Speaking of which I went with one of the above (not James, a wooly-jumpered Socialist chef, swoon) to La Valle Blanche in Byres Road and spent a highly enjoyable afternoon troughing my way through their unbelievably good value lunch deal. Clementine, celery & Pecorino salad with chicory, almonds and mustard dressing – what a starter! Then Coq au Vin, Pedro Ximenez Tiramisu, double espresso, bottle of red wine… Not exactly recession-busting when we’re dealing with two individuals with such lack of self-control when it comes to decadent food and booze. Don’t regret a penny.
Next culinary outing was a trip to the Fyne Ales brewery with the State Bar regulars. Day commences with a classic pie:
The State Bar is probably not where pies go when they die. We all enjoyed them nonetheless. Delighted that allegiance to a pub is rewarded with such excellent outings – crisp cold sunny day and a slow winding trundle along the Rest & Be Thankful on a bus full of excited State patrons taking photos like this:
When we arrived we got wired into an excellent selection of ales, my favourite being one part of their IPA Project – mmm. Also had pie no. II of the day – a far more upmarket steak number. Needless to say there was some serious overindulgence once the entourage was back in the State Bar, Paul – he of the sexy jumper and the left-wing ideology – leading the hangover charge with a round of sherries. Grim.
A note on pies: Joe Hill the trade unionist is credited with inventing the phrase “pie in the sky”!