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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Things and cakes


I think that it is generally accepted that if someone incorporates an image of a collapsible colander into the everyday surrealism of waking dreams then there is possibly a certain something lacking in their lives.  Or it may be that (and this is the version that I prefer) that your general level of appreciation of the odder things in life is more highly attuned than other ordinary folk.

Castelldefels has a shop which is a combination of Habitat and Pound Stretcher: a poor man’s version of a version of elegant living.  Things are priced at a reasonable level and the general layout is not as crowded as the Chinese emporia which clog up the shopping streets of the town.  Don’t get me wrong; Chinese shops are exactly the places you need to go when you need something like a washer or an artificial flower. 

From cheap and potentially lethal children’s toys to dubious concoctions supposed able to clean a bathroom the settlement of most human shopping needs is there.  They are like the old-fashioned hardware stores which, in their crowded aisles and towering shelves stuffed with little cardboard boxes and items whose use could only be guessed at, were the treasure troves of my youthful imagination.

The plasticized rubber (or possibly the rubberized plastic) construction of the (in this case blue) colander means that its bulbous semi-circular shape can be pushed in so that it can be stored flat.  It can be restored to its proper shape by being pushed out again.  I did try and effect this change by a flick of the wrist but, alas, even after many years of playing squash the necessary force was not there and it remained resolutely flat and it needed the four finger push to get it ready for work.

But I just love the idea.  It fits in so well with the Tefal saucepans and frying pans which are stored one inside the other, needing only the snap-on removable handles to make them fully functional.

We have limited storage space and Toni is well embarked on a cleaning up (or “throwing away” in my parlance) spree which has seen him tackle the horrors of the space under the sink, which is now so anally tidy that I am fearful to use anything there fearing that I might destroy the fearful symmetry of the space.

He has also ravaged the spice box which is now half empty, as he has binned those spices that he has designated “beyond their use-by date”.  I was not, and remain not, aware that spices and dried herbs had or have a “use-by” date – though it does perhaps explain how I was able to use what called itself spicy paprika pepper powder as a colorant rather than a seasoning – and have considered all such dates to be part of a conspiracy to make we poor consumers buy more.

In some ways, however, sell-by dates were made for people like me, people who take any old opportunity to go and buy things, especially if they have bright new containers, or if the container has a new, ergonomically designed top for example.  I have done this!

On the other hand Toni is sometimes like a reincarnation of Savonarola and Torquemada with a dash of New England Witch Finder General when it comes to things like heretical yogurt.  The expiry date is, for him like Holy Writ and anyone attempting to eat a pot a day beyond is a blaspheming infidel iconoclast and will suffer the torments of salmonella (which, come to think of it sounds very like a Renaissance Dominican zealot) and be inevitably cast into the outer darkness.  It is in vain that I maintain the weeks of leeway that yogurt expiry dates have – it is cast scornfully into the bin, the flameless bonfire of the comestibles.

And don’t even begin to speculate about his ideas on eggs!

All of the aforementioned meant that I had to go into town and buy the ingredients that I needed for my trial run of cakes for the Second Annual Chocolate Week (incorporating cakes) that is due to kick off on the 27th of February.

Holding myself to my promise to a colleague last year who only eats white chocolate, I found myself a recipe for “Chocolate Goldies” which, as any fule kno, are Chocolate Brownies made with white chocolate.

Vanilla essence is difficult to find here and I had to make do with a small, dark coloured bottle looking as though it contained a venomous poison but which was filled with dark vanilla stuff linked to sugar, but not like the openly labelled vanilla sugar that I have in a transparent bottle.

I also failed to find white chocolate bits and so substituted interesting looking sweets which turned out to be candy coated peanuts.

The end result was interesting and very, very sweet.  Toni gave it a 4/10 partly in revenge for my giving him a 5/10 for his first attempt at a vegetable paella.  Although the mark is harsh, I shall not make them in the same way again.  I shall substitute chopped almonds for the peanuts and fragmented white chocolate for the little cake pieces with the further addition of glacĂ© cherries because I like them.

The second cake was a triple chocolate cake found by Toni on the Internet and re-found in a different form by me when he forgot the web address of his first sighting.

This is the sort of cake where the only cooking is in the melting of the chocolate in the milk and cream and the addition of a sachet of some sort of white powder which presumably assists in the setting of each of the layers.

The layers of dark, milk and white chocolate stand on a cheesecake base of crushed digestive biscuit and butter and the monstrously heavy creation has been languishing in the fridge for a day to provide a sweet for our lunch.

As I will be presenting this cake to an unsuspecting public on March 1st I have decided to add a fondant icing (which I have never made) version of the Welsh flag to the top.  Just in case you think that this final addition of calories will take the cake into some sort of calorific nuclear meltdown, I must point out that there is no use made of additional sugar in the recipe.

This cake turned out to be a presentational disaster.  As I suspected, the centre could not hold and mere anarchy was loosed upon the lower levels by the uppermost layer of white chocolate spreading outwards and downwards.  Within five minutes the entre cake was attempting to leave the plate in a delicious ooze!

I have returned to the Internet and attempted to find another recipe to make for St David’s Day.

The one that I am tempted to try is an American version which has a cooked more cake-like base but made without flour and then mousse for the other two layers.  I may make it later in the week before I try it the week after.  So much fuss for so few for so many calories!

Talking of calories, we have just tried a new Sunday chicken grill place.  We have our traditional favourite but a new one near where we used to live has opened and I wanted to give it a try.

They still haven’t managed to settle in convincingly and their premises, which used to be a surfers’ shop, still have an unsettled and temporary look to it.  They had a very limited range of food on display and for sale but I bought the usual half chicken a couple of baguettes and two types of potato.  I made some sauce for the patatas bravas, but the meal was a disaster.  Even the bread I bought was disgusting!  Perhaps it was starting pains, but the end result of this new place does not bode well and we will go back to our usual haunts.

Meanwhile, although I am not going to talk about it, the horror of what is waiting for me after school tomorrow (and the day after) has ruined a restful weekend, but, as I said, I’m not going to talk about it.  At all.

Thank god for the distraction of Chocolate Week.  Incorporating cakes.
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