A mid-week blog from me this week as I was back too late from fishing last Sunday to post over the weekend. The past week has been all about taste and flavour and it’s got me full of ideas for new bakes.
I’ve had a few trips to the seaside over the past week. Last Tuesday I was down in Whitstable for a spot of fish and chips at the harbour, on my way to the University of Kent. I was there to discuss an MSc degree course I’ve been thinking about starting. Just before I applied to the Bake Off I’d been planning to go back to university to do a Master’s, as I’d recently completed a BSc in Biodiversity & Conservation through evening classes with Birkbeck College, University of London. I’m really keen to study again. Because I do a physical job, I reckon studying in my spare time is equivalent to people who work in offices going to the gym after work. I still haven’t decided which course I want to apply for or whether to defer it for another year, but I’m looking forward to getting my head back into textbooks again.
On Sunday, my Dad, one of my old school friends and I went to Weymouth to go sea fishing. I wish I could get out to sea more often but a couple of times a year is usually all we can manage. I’ve been fishing – fly-fishing and sea-fishing – since I was about 10 years old and we always eat what we catch. We were 28 miles out to sea and couldn’t see land (as you can see here) – always a great feeling to be in the middle of nowhere. I caught a 16lb cod, being filleted on board by the First Mate in the picture above. The whole family enjoyed it for dinner last night, coated in breadcrumbs, grilled and drizzled with lime oil. When a fish is that fresh, it really doesn’t need much doing to it as it tastes so good.
One of the reasons taste and flavour have been at the forefront of my mind this week is because of the event I went to last Friday. The home appliance manufacturer AEG has produced a documentary series called Tasteology, exploring ultimate taste experiences from different perspectives. They hosted a really interesting, interactive lunch where the documentary series was matched with a four course meal – each course relating to one of the programmes. The meal above was the starter of foraged herbs and mushrooms. I’m really interested in foraging, as I mentioned a few weeks ago when I made wild garlic pesto. As part of my BSc degree I specialised in native woodland plants, which gave me a great excuse to recognise, pick and eat wild mushrooms on field trips.
The documentary series launches tomorrow (Wednesday 25 May) and will be available on the AEG YouTube channel here. One of the documentary participants is Mark Schatzker, author of ‘The Dorito Effect‘, who discusses how artificial flavourings and processed foods have left many people out of tune with natural flavours. I’ve been thinking about this a lot – for example I love pickled onion Monster Munch (the nation’s favourite crisp) but a plain maize snack wouldn’t interest me much at all!
I’ve also been thinking about taste and flavour as we’re weaning our baby daughter. Every time she tries a new food for the first time – broccoli, sweet potato, raspberry, watermelon – it’s fascinating to watch her work it out. So many new, different textures and shapes. I’m already thinking about the first bakes I’m going to make for her. We’ve found baby-led weaning (i.e. giving babies pieces of food to eat themselves rather than feeding them purées) worked really well with our older daughters and it’s going well so far this time too. The only downside is finding appropriate / convenient foods when you’re out and about, so I’m going to come up with some simple recipes for on the go and post them when I do – I’m thinking salt-free breadsticks and vegetable breads to start with.
I’ve been making a lot of macarons recently too. They’re fantastic flavour-carriers. Once you’ve mastered the basics of macarons (there’s a good recipe in my book, B.I.Y. Bake It Yourself) the sky’s the limit in terms of the flavour combinations you can make. The ones in the picture above were chocolate and hazelnut but I’ve got some pistachio ones in the oven at the moment. They’re so good as gifts because of their versatility. Quite a few people have asked where I got my macaron boxes from – they’re from here. I posted the ones pictured above as thank you presents and they survived the journey intact. If you’re posting them, freeze them in their boxes overnight, pad the inside of the macaron box with folded baking parchment so they don’t rattle around, and then wrap the outside of the box in bubble wrap.
It’s still only been nine months since my book, B.I.Y. Bake It Yourself, was released. I’m really proud of the book and particularly of the reviews people have written about it (see here). If you’ve bought and enjoyed my book, please nominate it for Best New Cookbook in the Observer Food Monthly Awards here. You don’t have to nominate something in every category – you can vote in as few or as many categories as you like. If you don’t have my book yet, it’s only £10 on Amazon – what are you waiting for?!
There’ll be no blog from me on Sunday as we’re borrowing our friends’ canal boat (pictured above) for half term. If you’re from the Stoke area or know your canals, drop me a line about the best places to visit along the Trent & Mersey Canal. Happy Bank Holiday Baking!