Watching and Eating

You realize the cold weather has started kicking in when you don’t get the overwhelming urge to get out of the house the minute you get in. The duvets come out, the carpets are put in place, the odious task of wardrobe shuffling starts and long sleeves make a much-welcomed appearance.

And in my case, the oven is put into good use and the television is on again.

This weekend we saw The Great Gatsby. Leonardo di Caprio is not my favourite actor. I fail to disassociate him from the baby-faced actor who played Jack in the Titanic, and I find his portrayal of older characters lacking. He here plays the lead character, and along with Tobey Maguire who narrates the tale of Jay Gatsby and Carey Mulligan who plays the love interest, the film was surprisingly very good to watch. I use the term ‘surprisingly’ because it took us some minutes to get into the film. The director is Baz Luhrmann, and if you of any of his films, you may know why his films are not the usual ones. You have Jay-Z playing at a 1920s party and brightly used colours on a black and white background which make it unusual, but pleasant to the eye and ear. The soundtrack is great I have to say. My personal favourites are nearly all there (Florence and the Machine, Lana del Ray and Alicia Keys amongst others). Unlike my usual experiences, I did not read the book prior to watching the movie, and I only ordered it now. I always regret watching a film after reading the book – the book is always that bit better. So this time I worked it out the opposite…we’ll see how it plays out.

the-great-gatsby-2012

And I baked πŸ™‚

This week I did a yummy and slightly strange Almond and Cinnamon Cake. ‘Strange’ because unbeknownst to me when choosing to make it, it is a gluten-free and dairy-free cake. It is shallow in appearance, but the taste of ground almonds gives it a rich taste, with the cinnamon topping just pulling it off ever so well. It is very easy to make and the reviews were very good as well! I’m definitely doing this one again!

So if you’re interested…

– 8 egg whites (I used 6 and that was enough).

– 150g caster sugar

– Few drops of almond essence

– Zest of 1 clementine or 1/2 an orange (I used one of each)

– 125ml mild and light olive oil

– 150 ground pure almonds

– 1 teaspoon baking powder

– 100g flaked almonds

– 1 teaspoon cinnamon

– Approximately 2 teaspoons icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 180 Celcius and grease a springform cake tin and line the base with baking parchment.

Whisk the egg whites until they are opaque and start to hold their shape. Then slowly add the sugar and whisk until it’s all incorporated and the mixture is thick and shiny.

Add the almond essence and the clementine/orange zest. Then, in about 3 goes each, alternately whisk in teh oil and the ground almonds (mixed with the baking powder) until they are both smoothly incorporated into the meringue.

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin, then mix together the flaked almonds and cinnamon and sprinkle them over the top.

Bake for 35-40 minutes (start checking at 30 minutes) until the top has risen and set, and the almonds are golden. A tester should come out clean.

Remove from oven and let cool.

You can then sprinkle some icing sugar on the top to create a snowy effect. I did without just to use that bit less sugar.

(Healthy eating and all that…)

Christmas is coming up and I would definitely recommend this one for the festive period. It’s easy to make and it’ll definitely make a hit!

Have a great week πŸ˜‰

Autumn – Check, Oven – On!

Thankfully the weather here on The Rock has cooled down a bit. Mind you, it’s nothing compared to what our European counterparts are experiencing because our temperatures are still reaching mid-20s, but at least it is now sometimes bearable to wear a pair of jeans and a semi-sleeved top.

However don’t let the date kid you. November may be round the corner but don’t think you can put on any jackets, coats and scarves for now!

With cooler weather, I can start using my oven again. For humane reasons I do not switch on the oven during the summer months – that would amount to suicide. But now I have started unearthing my oven recipes from their summer hibernation and my oven is on again!

A fellow blogger has asked me for a casserole recipe – it seems I’m not the only one eyeing wintery recipes. I have a recipe for a Pork and Sweet Potato Casserole dish I haven’t tried yet for some reason. The ingredients are simple and easy to find, and here’s the recipe!

– 2 tbsp olive oil

– 500g diced pork

– 1 onion/leek

– chopped garlic

– 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

– 1 tsp ground cumin

– 1 tsp sweet smoked paprika

– 2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano

– 150ml dry white wine

– 400g can of chopped tomatoes

– 170ml soured cream

– 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

– Heat the oil in a large casserole. Add the pork and brown on all sides. Then add the onion/leek and garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes until softened. Add the sweet potatoes to the an, then scatter over the cumin, paprika, oregano and seasoning. Stir for 1-2 minutes.

– Pour in the wine then add the tomatoes to the pan with 100ml of cold water. Bring to the boil then cover the pan and simmer gently for an hour and a half, until the pork is tender and the sauce has thickened. Stir n the soured cream and scatter with the chopped parsley. Serve with steamed rice, a large green salad or some steamed cabbage.

Should you wish you can also add some red kidney beans for the last 15 minutes of cooking time, just to make the meal go that bit further πŸ˜‰

The nice thing about a casserole is that you have a couple of minutes of preparing the dish and then you can let it cook slowly and nicely in the oven, or in this case over the hob. By the time the food is ready, the food’s aroma will have probably driven your appetite over the wall and all the more better for you!

I’d appreciate any feedback on this dish just because I haven’t tried it out myself yet. If the ingredients are anything to go by, I’m sure it’ll be a winter favourite in our household!

Oh, and this was us this time last year! Wearing coats and scarves and drinking hot chocolates!! Ah, to have a fraction of that cold weather…

Have a great day x

Jos

Our Jimmy last Halloween :)

Our Jimmy last Halloween πŸ™‚

Back to Baking

Because of the insufferable heat the islands offer in summer, I had to pause my baking activities and took a two-month break. Using an oven in the middle of a Maltese summer is the equivalent of adding Tabasco to a chilli burger and then complaining it’s too hot and spicy. My hands were itching (quite literally!) and I was drooling over recipes I was searching for and going through in my cooking books and magazines.

Then last week, the weather cooled down a bit.

And so I baked!

And as I always do, I get over-excited. There is something about a lit oven with a baking cake inside that makes me happy. Be it the warm heat, the delicious scent coming out of the oven or the bubbly excitement when finding out how the cake actually tastes! Β We had friends over for one night and family the next, so the occasions called for two cakes. Β The first one was quite straightforward – it was an Almond and Apricot cake, whilst the second one – a Mojito Genoise, required that bit more work and effort, but the results were simply yummy!

(In my excitement I forgot to take any photos, but I can assure you, you won’t mind the appearance of the cakes because you’ll be too busy devouring them!!)

I’ll give you the online link of the Mojito Genoise cake only because the other cake is easy to find. One minor tweek I’d recommend is decreasing the amount of sugar used in the Mojito syrup because it comes a bit too sweet when using the recommended amount. The rest is as good as it’ll ever get πŸ˜‰

The Mojito Genoise cake

I did not cover the whole cake with buttercream only because I did not have the time to do so. This cake may require some extra effort, but it'll definitely be appreciated by your guests!!

I did not cover the whole cake with buttercream only because I did not have the time to do so and I did not want to over-sweeten the cake. This cake may require some extra effort, but it’ll definitely be appreciated by your guests!!

SAD Sufferer

 

These past couple of days have been truly beautiful. While it’s still cold, no denying that, the sun has been out and we are seeing the blue skies for the first time in what seems like months. This winter was a tough one. We went through whole weeks of rain and grey skies and although I’ve become that bit more accustomed to the low temperatures here, I have to say that I’m that bit more gloomier on such days. My energy levels are in the minuses and I become lethargic without doing anything at all. Were it not for C, I’m sure I’d have spent days at end inside, perhaps not even bothering to get out of bed. But I no longer enjoy such luxury.

And then we have days like today, days when I don’t mind waking up with The Husband and making an earlier start than usual. Sunny days energize me, turn me into this strange Superwoman who manages to do tens of things I’ve been procrastinating about for weeks and I can’t seem to sit still. I open all the blinds, let the warm sunlight in and even unhinge the windows to let some pure and fresh air in. I get to hang out clothes outside, go for walks with C, enjoy the sun on my face (even though I’m cuddled up in hats and scarves) and everything seems that bit nicer. I even bother going through cookbooks for new recipes and turn a blind eye to C’s troublemaking.

I’m one of those people whose mood and general well-being is effected by the weather. I’d say I’m a SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) sufferer, and it does not help living in England. But the very cold winters make me appreciate summers that bit more. The very thought of less clothing, warm skin and cold ice-cream keeps me going on cold winter days.

Of course Maltese summers are HELL, but then that’s a different post altogether…

July 2012

July 2012

 

 

Bigger. Heavier. Bulkier.

Notwithstanding the promises we set out to keep and the limits we try to keep ourselves within, we always end up with the same problem when packing for our Christmas holidays – the amount of space available is by no means sufficient for the number of things we have to bring down to The Rock with us. Somewhere along the line we inadvertently throw caution to the wind, overbuy gifts and somehow think that the problem won’t exist this year round. And of course, it always presents its’ ugly head this time of the year. And so my headaches start, and I try to think about what we can live without for the coming month. Suddenly nothing seems indispensable.

We have gotten better at packing. After so many visits to and fro The Rock, I can pack a miniscule hand-luggage for my things and those of C’s in no time. Weekend visits are not that hard to pack for especially when you’re visiting family, because you always know that if you forget a jacket, socks or a scarf you can always borrow one from them. Longer visits are harder to think for, especially winter ones where the clothes are bulkier and space becomes so limited too quickly. And Christmas visits are a nightmare – the additional headaches of bringing down all the Christmas gifts in one piece is a tense affair. Winter, Christmas visits with a baby? I won’t even try to explain that one!

At the moment our living room is starting to resemble Zara during the sales period – items of clothing everywhere – on the floor, on the chairs, dining table – every small space is taken up by things we have to bring down with us. I have lists of things I must not forget Β – most notably the dress I intend to wear for my sis-in-law’s wedding, and C’s flower-girl shoes. Forgetting those would cause a small issue. I’m also looking at weather reports because one thing I always get wrong is the weather. Last October we visited The Rock and I took winter clothes for C because we already had winter weather here. Poor baby spent a weekend in tights and long-sleeved tops when everyone else was running around bare-legged and in summer dresses. I’m sure Β (and hoping) we won’t have this problem this time round.

If and when we pack there always comes the next hurdle – going through airport security. From the Maltese end, I do not think about it one bit. Sad to say but they have the most lax airport security I’ve ever encountered. I have passed baby milk without being asked to taste it and I’ve had on boots and belts and not removed them. Sad and scary as well. English airports are different – although I have to admit that having a push-chair and a baby gives you that bit more leniency. But the security checks are a nightmare. I clearly remember the instance when female officer told me that she would have to check Cesca when we crossed over last year – she was only three months at the time! I was furious but you can’t really argue with them can you? Nowadays they take off her shoes and jackets and search her just as they do me whenever the damned bleeper goes off. Which it does quite frequently, because I always forget some bibs and bobs in my pockets. And even though it’s normally change or baby hair-clips, the look on the officer’s face goes from a friendly one to a suddenly suspicious one.

The next five days will be hectic and I already have a headache just from thinking about it. My wish is to blink and have it all done and ready. I need to hire my own personal genie this time of the year.

Our situation every December...

Our situation every December…

Our ‘Crazy’ Weekend

This one just rolled on by. And by the feel of it, it seems we rolled on with it, being crushed by the weight of it all because I am exhausted, my feet are aching and I needed two coffees this morning just to open my eyes and face the day.

I had lots of R&R time going on. I am that bit more presentable now – my hair had over three months worth of roots and it was not a pretty sight. My face needed a professional clean-up, scrubbing-up and overall polish, and thankfully I got that as well. C has her fringe cut as well, and we’re trying to grow her mass of locks into a bob. She has just under 50 days to achieve that, and maybe walking.

But this weekend seemed all about meeting friends – some of whom I haven’t seen for weeks, others for years, and then there was a fellow Maltese blogger/Twitter writer who I FINALLY met up with! It was a pleasure meeting up with you V πŸ˜‰

Remember the dilemma I told you we’re currently facing? Although I haven’t elaborated about it yet, it seems the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle was set in place this weekend, and I can’t wait to write about it!

We celebrated nannu’s birthday this weekend, we celebrated a friend’s wedding and we met up with old friends for dinner (which somehow extended to 1am and ended up with us all getting drunk on Averna!) – so suffice it to say I’ve had my fair share of wine, food and standing up in heels.

(Especially after last week’s post, though I made one super effort!)

We’re now back to foggy weather, lower temperatures and rain. Malta was hot and humid, quite terrible actually considering I packed everything wrong it seems (especially where C was concerned). So I’m very happy and relieved to be back here.

Have a good week x

Our Brrr-Weekend!

This weekend we left Canterbury and headed up north to visit friends. It was much much colder there – we were in coats, scarves and full winter gear in nearly zero-degree weather! We enjoyed ourselves and had a great time meeting up with fellow Maltesers, but nothing beats that feeling of going back home and enjoying normality. I was fascinated by Felix Baumgartner who managed the amazing feat of beating the sound barrier. I’m sure lots of you were mesmerized by it all as I was. It’s unbelievable what man is capable of. Those four minutes and nineteen seconds of free-falling were the craziest thing I have ever seen and the things which could have gone wrong were hundreds. But he did it, he beat records so good for him!

Crazy. Fascinating. Amazing!

This week we visit The Rock. We haven’t been there in what seems like ages. We have a wedding we’re looking forward to, Cesca and myself have a very important visit to the hairdressers I’m counting the seconds to (if you see my disastrous state my hair is in, you’ll understand) and I am eager for the grandparents to babysit C for a couple of hours. This is the only time I can do ‘me-things’, without worrying about a bored baby, nappy changes and meal-times. Luckily enough, C has grand-parents who are only too happy to take care of her.Β  Poor things don’t know yet how much more tiring she is now than she was in summer…

Visiting Malta always brings with it the slight headache of what to pack and what to bring with us. My mother still has the fans on while we are in jackets and boots. Summer-wear was left in Malta so apart from some cardigans and trousers, we won’t be getting much.

Then again I always say that and I always end up with an over-packed and over-weight luggage, full of things I won’t’ wear.

I never learn!