Monday, 15 August 2016

Gelato Day

The new house (We'll have been here 2 years come October, can I still call it new?) has brambles in the front garden, so today I'm home from work and so we picked some brambles, and somehow agreed we'd make Bramble Gelato.

So digging out my dad's old machine Gelato Chef 2200 (it would have sounded better as just 2000!) we mixed (stupid amounts of) sugar, brambles and lemon juice together and heated it up until it made a kind of jam, then letting it cool, then mixing will LOTs of cream and milk and mixing.

40 mins later we have this (the child looking longingly at it, is optional)

Anyway the real recipe
  • 500(ish)g of Brambles or Blackberries
  • 150g Caster Sugar
  • 1 Juiced lemon

Heat then Sieve roughly and let cool.

Then add in

  • 450ml Double Cream
  • 100ml Milk

Stir around and then add to your Icecream maker.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Fallacious Pieday

This is the Pieday about which I should have posted, well, quite a while ago.
Britons* will probably be able to calculate exactly how long I have been procrastinating when I explain my reasons.
 I blame the Great British Bake-Off.
I was ready to write this post, I was even quite excited about this post.
And then they baked almost exactly the same thing.
And, of course, they did it better.
 So I, being apparently, ludicrously insecure, have been putting this post off ever since.
But no more!
 Behold, oh puny mortals the glory that is French Silk Pie!

Or rather that isn't French Silk Pie.
For a start, this pie is not French, it's American.
Furthermore the filling is not silk**, it is chocolate.
What is more, a more pedantic*** person than I would probably argue that it was not a pie but a tart.
This is clearly nonsense: it has a filling, it is surrounded by a crust, ergo it is a pie****.

What we made, however, was not a French Silk Pie.

We started out in good faith, with a standard recipe and hope in our hearts.
Somewhere along the way, though, we wandered from the true path, resulting in chocolate pastry, chocolate cream and about seventy five percent more theobromine cacao than the average confection.
And it was good.

We didn't make a French Silk Pie


165g plain flour
25g ground almonds
120g chilled butter
190g caster sugar
3 eggs
(Optional: a spoonful of cocoa and some sort of liquid).
75g not so chilled butter
150ml double cream
Dark chocolate (opinions vary on how much, I say just buy a bar and use it)
(Optional: more double cream and more chocolate)
A dash of vanilla

First make and chill the pastry.
It feels like I've gone over this a lot, but that may only have been inside my head so here goes.
First combine the flour and almonds in a bowl.
If you want to make chocolate pastry then take out a spoonful***** of flour and replace it with a similar amount of cocoa.
Grate in the chilled butter as quickly as possible given that you suddenly have six hands all trying to grate at once and at least four of them are rather warm and two of them are...sticky...eugh.
Stir in the sugar then add the egg and stir this gloopy mass with your myriad hands until you have a soft dough.
 Assuming you added the cocoa, you will find that you have not a soft dough at all but an awkward crumbly mass.
Add a splash or so of some sort of liquid****** and continue working the mixture as quickly and lightly as possible until you do have a soft dough.
Wrap the dough in cling film and stick it in the fridge.

Scour Small Chef and Smaller Chef until they are no longer caked in dough-gunk and then scour the house for the library books.
Regret the opportunity to use a sentence involving zeugma.
Explain what zeugma is.
 On the way to the library listen to many examples of sentences that either are not zeugma or do not make sense.
When finally presented with an entirely rational zeugma-employing sentence do not shout "Yes! Yes! That's it! Finally".
 You will disturb the other occupants of the bus.

Come home, make lunch, remember you have a pie to make and get on with stage two.

Roll out the pastry, put it in your pie-dish, prick it all over, fill with parchment and baking beans and blind bake for fifteen minutes.
Take out the beans and things and give it another ten minutes, then take it out and leave to cool.

Place a bowl inside a larger bowl and pour boiling water into the larger bowl until it rises up the sides but does not spill.
Break up the chocolate and place it in the bowl to melt.
You will probably have to change the water a few times so put the kettle on again.
Mix the butter and sugar in a small saucepan and place on the heat.
Observe that Chefs Small and Smaller are now so well trained that they regard anything resembling a double boiler as though it were a nuclear bomb and yet they have no fear whatsoever of the very hot stove.
Make a note to work on this sometime.
Make a further note to look up pictures of burn victims when you have a moment.
If you're going to scare your kids, you might as well do it accurately.

Stir the eggs and sugar over the heat and keep on stirring until the mixture will coat the back of a metal spoon.
If you have a kitchen-thermometer then you should probably use it: in this case stop stirring when it reaches 160 fahrenheit.
Take the mixture off the heat, dump in the melted chocolate and a dash of vanilla and stir till smooth********.
Leave this to cool a little while you get on with the rest.

Now take it in turns to beat the butter until it is light and fluffy, dodging splatters of flying butter as necessary.
Stir the chocolate mixture into the butter and beat the whole lot until it looks fluffy again.

Take a clean bowl with higher sides than you think you will need.
Pour in the double cream and whip till it forms firm peaks.
Do not permit any chef to do this if you value your nice, clean********* kitchen.
Fight Small Chef for possession of the whisk if necessary.
 Why did you clean the kitchen the night before Pieday anyway?

Fold the peaky looking cream into the chocolate to produce something dark and wonderful and entirely healthy-looking.
Pour this into the pie shell and place in the fridge to chill.

Clean the cream and butter splatters off the walls.

If you feel the need for yet more chocolate, or if you just have a lot of cream and chocolate left over, then melt some chocolate********** in the same way as you did earlier, let it cool a little and whip the cream till it forms stiffish peaks.
Gently fold the chocolate into the cream and dollop this on top of your pie.

Shave yet more chocolate over the top with a cheese grater.

Contemplate new names for your creation.
Vote on the best one.

Save for dessert and serve in slim slices as it is very rich.
Wait till the worthy chefs are at their well-earned repose then finish the lot.

*Or at least those dwelling in Britain.

**Which would be revolting.

***Shut up.

**** Next week: I bend reality yet further to produce moussaka.
Which is definitely pie!

*****Tea or table, I won't judge.

******Milk, orange juice, whatever you like*******

*******But not that, ew,  that's a terrible idea, what were you thinking?

********Personally, I am always smooth.

**********I don't know.
Maybe a third of a bar?
How much do you have left anyway?
You know you can just eat it, don't you?

Friday, 16 October 2015

Twin Pieday

One thing that gets me horribly frustrated is when what looks like an interesting recipe turns out to go: "Buy cake mix, bake, ice* with this stuff from a tub and sprinkle with this brand of sprinkly stuff" or, worse, "Put ready-rolled pastry in tin, pour on pie-filling, bake".
Some things are truly soul-destroying.

So I decided that today we would prove, once and for all, that actually putting the time and effort into making something properly is entirely worth it.

We made two Cherry Pies.


One packet of shortcrust pastry
One emergency packet of puff pastry
Two eggs
50g ground almonds
350g plain flour
200g caster sugar
150g cold butter
A little milk
Two tins of cherry pie filling
1kg cherries**
Vanilla essence or one vanilla pod
Lemon if you like it

First make pastry for the home-made pie.
Put the flour into a large bowl and grate in the butter quickly.
Toss the butter in the flour then rub lightly with the fingers until it forms breadcrumbs.
Hand Small Chef the first egg and ask her to crack it.
Clean up the mess from the exploded egg, get another egg from somewhere and quickly crack and separate two eggs, leaving the whites for meringue-making or healthy-but-unappealling omelettes, or something like that.
Dump the egg yolks, the ground almonds and 100g of sugar into the flour mixture and mix with the hands until everyone is covered in yuck.
Add a splash of milk and work the mixture gently together till it forms a dough.
Wrap this in cling film, place in the fridge to rest and go out to the library taking special care to remember to bring your library books.

Come back from the library, find the library books and put them by the door to try again tomorrow.

Now you can start making pies.

Send both chefs to wash their hands.
Get out your laptop or music system and put on Sweet Cherry Pie.
Rock out sedately in the kitchen while waiting for their return.
Put a large pan on the stove and pour in the other 100g of sugar along with a dash of vanilla.
Turn on the heat and leave the pan to its own devices until the sugar has turned to caramelly gloop.
Issue a Terrible Warning as to what will happen should anyone touch the stove, the pan, or the hot sugar.
Make a note to find a copy of Hillaire Belloc's Cautionary Tales.
Find Smaller Chef a handkerchief.

If you have fresh cherries place on on top of a small-necked bottle, take a straw and push this through the cherry and into the bottle, neatly extracting the stone and depositing it in the bottle.
Take a moment to appreciate how amazing this trick is, then stone the rest of the cherries in the same way.
You now have a bottle full of cherry stones.
Make a note to look up kirsch recipes.

Next, roll out the shortcrust pastry and cut to fit your pie-dish.
Cut the rest of the pastry into ten strips, long enough to reach from one side of the dish to the other.
Fit the pie base into the dish.
Now open the tins of pie-filling and pour the bloop into the pie case.
Shake the cans gently to release their contents if they don't easily pour out.
Send chefs Small and Smaller to wash the pie-goop out of their hair.

When they have returned and the sugar in the pan is thoroughly gloopified, pour the cherries into the resulting caramel along with a squeeze of lemon juice, if you like it, and a good splash of kirsch.
While this is cooking down, finish topping the first pie.

Take five strips of pastry and set them across the filled pie dish.
Place one strip across the centre of the dish, crossing the other strips then fold every other strip back across this centre strip.
Take the next strip and set it across the two or three strips that have not been folded back, a little away from the folds.
Unfold the folded strips over this strip and fold back the strips that were previously unfolded.
Place another strip over the strips that are now unfolded and then unfold the folded strips back over them.
 Now fold back the strips that you originally folded, again, on the other side of the dish and repeat the  previous couple of steps: laying down a strip, unfolding the folded strips and folding back the unfolded to cover that side in the same way.
You should have a charming latticework top.
Failing that, take this opportunity to discuss the work of M.C Escher.
Tuck the ends of the lattice-strips under the main pie case and crimp the edges all the way round.
Put this pie in the fridge to chill before baking.

Assuming that your cherries are now a pleasingly dark and glossy mass, sprinkle in two tablespoons of cornflour and stir till thickened.
Take this pie filling of the heat and set aside to cool.
 Now roll out your homemade pastry and cut to fit another pie-dish.
Discover that when you try to cut this pastry into strips it crumbles to fine crumbs of nothing.
Mutter "What have you done to my beautiful wickedness" and get the emergency puff pastry out of the fridge***.
Roll this out and cut strips ready to top this pie like the last one.
Place the pastry case in the fridge to chill till the pie filling is ready.

Watch Small Chef improvise interpretive dance on the subject of cherry pie.
Admonish Small Chef and inform her that dancing in the kitchen is strictly forbidden.
Enjoy the sweet tang of hypocrisy.

Fill the homemade pie case with  homemade pie filling and top with tragically unhomemade pastry strips as you did the last pie.

Cook the pies, one at a time if necessary, in a high-to-moderate oven (we went with 200 degrees) for about thirty five minutes.

Eat a slice of each, for comparison purposes, with a damn fine cup of coffee.
Wonder what you're going to do with the rest of the pies****.
Further wonder what to do with the information that everybody prefers the homemade pastry, but two out of three chefs prefer the tinned filling***** and Richard obstinately continues to dislike cherry pie.

Consider that the advantage of homemade pie is that you can tinker with the recipe until you get it right.
Wonder how many pies you're going to have to bake before you manage this.

*Actually, it usually says "frost".

**We ended up using frozen ones, as cherries are not in season, so missed out on the cool cherry pitting trick.

***What are you talking about?
Everyone has emergency pastry in the fridge, haven't they?

****The answer, of course, is: freeze them.


******Make a further note to re-read Asterix.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Vaguely Excusable Pieday

I admit, I had a different pie planned for today.
Apart from anything else it was an actual pie, as opposed to chicken nuggets and breaded mushrooms*.
This plan was tragically derailed by my traumatic experience last Saturday however.

It should have been a nice day out: we went out to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park then to a particularly good farm shop for lunch**.
All was going well until time came for dessert and I saw, in the cabinet, beside the many-coloured, many-layered fancified figments that made up the rest of the contents, a pecan pie.
Naturally I had to order it.
Dessert, and coffee were delivered to our table and the girls dove into some squelchingly sumptuous looking gateaux*** while I nibbled a forkful of my pie.
And then, disaster.
The pie was not as good as mine.
Understand that there was nothing wrong with it, it was a perfectly good pie, syrupy for my tastes, but an entirely reasonable representative of the Pecan nation and all it stands for****.
It just wasn't as good as my pie.
I was sitting, in a restaurant, thinking that the food I had been served was inferior to my own.
I had been suddenly and irrevocably confronted with the inevitable truth.
I am officially old.

So naturally after all that I had no choice but to abandon any plans to make a proper pie and to instead create something unhealthy, impractical and barely deserving of the word pie.

We made chicken nuggets.

We also made breaded mushroom things, because some of us don't eat meat


Enough chicken breast, mushrooms, lumps of quorn or whatever-the-hell-else you plan on cooking to go round
Milk, yoghurt or buttermilk (enough to cover the things-to-be-breaded when placed in a bowl)
Rice Crispies, or Ritz crackers, or Panko breadcrumbs, or something that'll work as a coating*****
Hard cheeses of your choice, or that soya-flour cheese flavoured stuff, or nothing at all
Marinade ingredients of your choice******
Cooking oil.

First chop your breadable-things into pieces and dump in a bowl.
Add the marinade ingredients and then enough milk, buttermilk or yoghurt******* to cover everything, place in the fridge then go away to watch cartoons and mourn the death of your youth.
But make them horror cartoons, because there has to be some point to being a grown up.
Wonder if you made good choices in your life.

Realise there is another upside to adulthood when alerted to it by the presence of the bright eyed and bushy tailed Chefs Small and Smaller, the one wielding a bag full of library books and the other asking whether it is time to cook the chicken yet.
Drag the kids to the library.

When you have spent a full day chasing after your manic offspring and are starting to reassess that whole "upside" thing, take out and drain your bowl full of lumps.

Put some cornflour into a sandwich bag ********.
Beat the egg in a bowl or mug.
Grate a couple of table spoons of the hard cheese, or sprinkle out about half a teaspoon of that weird cheese flavoured stuff.
Crush whatever you're going to use as a coating and mix it with the cheese or fake cheese powder on a large plate.
If you're trying to crush Panko give up: they are pre-crushed.
Set out a production line: cornflour, egg, plate of crumbly stuff and either a plate or an oiled baking tray at the end, depending on whether you intend to fry or bake your resulting nuggety thingummies.
Pre-heat the oven if you're planning on baking them.

Drop one of your whatever-lumps into the cornflour bag, twist the top to seal it tightly and award to whichever chef has been least obnoxious recently.
Allow said chef to cha-cha round the kitchen shaking the bag like a maraca until the blob is thoroughly coated.
Drop the blob into the egg, fish it out again, dump it on the plate and roll it about till lightly coated, then transfer to the receiving plate or tray.
Do exactly the same thing with all the other lumps.
When you get sick of doing it properly start just throwing in batches: they'll all get somewhat coated and that's all that really matters.
Observe that Small Chef's fingers are now rather more heavily breaded than the mushrooms.
Send Small Chef to wash her hands.
Quickly finish most of the lumps leaving just a couple for Small Chef to do, so she won't notice.
Apologise for finishing off most of the lumps.
And for doubting her powers of observation.

Put lumps of mushroom on the tray in the oven at whatever heat you like: they're mushroom, they won't care.
For chicken blobs you should probably be more careful so settle for around 200 celsius, for fifteen to twenty minutes, flipping them over at least once and poking them before you take them out to see if they're pink in the middle (they shouldn't be...I think).
Or just give up any pretence of healthiness and fry the beggars.

Tip for vegetarians: if making chicken nuggets get a meat eater to handle the breading and cooking.
That way you don't have to explain why Mummy is handling the chicken pieces with extra long cooking chopsticks while holding her breath and pretending to smile.
You also get to listen to Smaller Chef pretending to pay attention to a lecture on food safety.
And you don't have to keep poking the cooking nuggets to see if they're cooked when, honestly, you have no idea what properly cooked chicken should look like.

Serve with coleslaw, a variety of dipping sauces and either chips or sweet potato chips.

Save the left overs to eat cold the next day.
Because you're a grown-up and can do things like that.

*Crust, filling, pie.
Get over it.

**Blacker Hall Farm, their vegetarian platter thingy is rather good.

***Eleanor's was a mocha-cake, with coffee beans on top.
This may have been a mistake on our part.

****I probably shouldn't blog while Avatar is on.

*****Honestly, use crushed Doritos for all I care.

******We went with black garlic, lemon and thyme, but you could use garlic, ginger and cumin (in which case, skip the cheese) or something of your own devising.

*******You know, you could probably use something completely non-dairy-related here, if you wanted.

********If you don't have one, do this bit in a bowl, but expect clouds of cornflour to go everywhere.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Apricot Pieday

I make no apologies for the lack of a pastry recipe with this tart pie.
This is probably unconscionably rude of me, but this recipe comes in the middle of a number of pies-with-pastry-recipe and at some point I was bound to get sick of describing the whole butter plus flour equals breadcrumbs process.
Anyway we didn't make pastry for this one, because I wanted to focus on learning a couple of new techniques, we bought a pre-made pie-case instead*

We made an Apricot Tart


One pre-made pie case***
A couple of punnets of apricots, or decent tinned ones if apricots are out of season and horrible***** like they are by now.
100g caster sugar.
Four egg yolks******
500ml milk
40g cornflour
40g butter
A dash of kirsch*******
Apricot jam
Icing sugar.

Whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour.
Put the milk into a pan, on the stove, turn on the heat and add the vanilla in whatever form you have it.********
Once the milk is just boiling take it off the heat and pour a little into the egg and sugar goop.
Deal summarily with any argument as to who goes first via the ancient rite of Ip Dip Dip and award a whisk to the winner.
Watch the victorious Smaller Chef wreaking havoc upon an innocent bowl of mixed sucrose and dairy products.
End this carnage by taking back the whisk, pouring the results back into the milk and letting Small Chef have at it.
Be very, very glad things did not fall out otherwise.
Pour the resulting mess into a large bowl and stir in the butter.
Leave to cool.
Once cool attempt to place in the fridge until needed.
Wish you had used a smaller bowl.

Attempt to explain the difference between crème pâtissière and custard.
Recognise that nobody is listening and move on.

To skin the apricots, cut a small cross in the bottom of each then place them in a bowl of boiling water for a few minutes.
Remove an apricot plunging it immediately into icy water.
In theory this will loosen the skin, allowing you to peel it away with ease.
Note that theory and reality do not always match.
Try not to look troubled by the way some of the slippery little beggars try to cling to their skins.
If Small Chef wants to know whether this method would also work on Smaller Chef you may permit yourself to look troubled.
Explain to Smaller Chef that no-one will be plunging her into boiling water today.
Wonder why she isn't concerned about the parts involving Very Sharp Knives.
Halve each of the skinned apricots.

Take the crème pâtissière out of the fridge and stir in a teaspoon or two of kirsch.
Pour this mixture into the pastry case, smooth it out and arrange your halved apricots on top.

Warm three tablespoons of the jam and one of kirsch in a pan on the stove until runny.
Brush the resulting glaze all over the tart.

Take a moment to bask in the glossy beauty of your creation.

Contemplate the effect of a light dusting of icing sugar over the top of that gleaming, amber surface.
Contemplate the effect of two children with a tea-strainer full of icing sugar on your relatively gleaming kitchen.
Put the icing sugar away.

Chill the apricot tart until wanted.
Serve in reasonable slices, noting that there is enough left for a civilised afternoon tea with friends, the next day.

Put Chefs Small and Smaller to bed.

Consign friends to perdition and eat the lot.

*But it was a really good one.**

**I know.
That doesn't make it any better, honestly.

***Or slave over proper pate sucre, see if I care.****

****I care.
Dear gods I care.

*****But to be honest, in that case, you might as well just make something else.

******I see a lot of meringue in your future if you keep following these recipes.
Or egg white omelettes.
Those are supposed to be healthy for some reason.

*******At some point we will make a cherry pie.
This will provide me with an abundance of cherry stones with which to make kirsch.
In the meantime I settled for buying it online.

*******A pod or two worth of seeds would be lovely, but a splash of decent vanilla essence will suffice.

Friday, 4 September 2015

Dimly Remembered Pieday

This is not the pie we made today.
It is not the pie we made last week.
It is not even the pie we made a month ago.
It is, however, the pie we made the week that we went on an unintentional hiatus due to my not knowing how to write up this year's trip to Circus Camp and then getting into a rut.

Fortunately, some things stick in the memory.
This is one of them.

This particular pie is called a flamiche* and according to Wikipedia it is much like a quiche, but made with a puff pastry, or brioche-style shell and a base of low fat cheese.
Not one of the flamiche recipes that I have found so far contains either a puff pastry or brioche shell or a low fat cheese base.
A little research has brought me to the conclusion that flamiche differs from quiche in two specific ways.
Firstly, it is called flamiche.
Secondly, unlike quiche which frequently features beside salads in the Lighter Options section of the menu, there is no way flamiche could ever pretend to be healthy.

We made a flamiche.


250g plain flour
150g butter (chilled) plus extra for greasing things (but honestly, just use the wrapper)
Six egg yolks.
One whole egg
400g leeks.
300ml double cream
150g camembert (or brie, or other oozy cheese that tastes good when heated)
Nutmeg, salt and pepper.

Put the flour into a bowl with a pinch of salt and stir it .
Quickly grate in 125g of the butter******* and rub the resulting sticky yellow worms into the flour till it looks like a mass of breadcrumbs.
Dump in two egg yolks.
Mix the egg yolks into the flour mixture with your hands.
Observe that, while perfectly happy to finger-paint, sculpt with clay, dig in the flowerbeds and digitally explore all manner of messes, neither Small nor Smaller Chef is inclined to put their fingers in the egg yolk.
Demonstrate your skills in oration to persuade chefs Small and Smaller to poke the damn egg before the mixture grows warm.
While they are washing their hands, use yours to finish mixing the egg yolks into the flour and butter mixture, adding cold water, a spoonful at a time until you can achieve a smooth mixture that doesn't cling too much to the sides of the bowl.

If your pastry is damp you overdid the water.

Roll the pastry into a ball, squash into a disc, wrap in cling film and put it into the fridge.
When the inestimable chefs return from their ablutions and realise that they have missed the opportunity to become even messier, explain that this is what happens when you become suddenly squeamish.
Endure their protestations and increasingly elaborate list of Things We Would Happily Prod all the way to the library and back.

After lunch, or three hours after you put the pastry disc in the fridge (whichever is longer) turn the oven on to a moderate pie-cooking temperature (we generally go with 200c).

Take out the pastry and roll it to fit your pie dish (or quiche tin actually).
Place neatly in the dish, adjust it until it is actually in the dish and not hanging over the edge, frantically patch the pieces that tore when you moved it and prick all over with a fork.
Realise that you forgot to grease the pie tin, consider any occasions on which you may have left previous******** such tins ungreased, dump out the pastry, grease the tin and somehow get the pastry back into the tin again.
 Fill this pie-shell with baking parchment and baking beans.
If you do not have baking parchment and baking beans, an old, slightly smaller, quiche tin filled with rice works remarkably well.
Place in the oven for ten minutes.

While it cooks, clean the leeks and slice into rounds.
Prevent Smallest Chef from wearing these on her fingers.
While Smallest Chef washes her hands, throw the now less-than-clean rings of leek into the bin, wash your own hands again and place the remaining butter in a pan over a low heat.

At some point during this nonsense the ten minutes will be up.
Remove the pie-shell from the oven, take out whatever weight you used and place the now unburdened shell back into the oven for another five minutes.
After this, take out the shell and set aside, turning the oven down a little (180c works for us, but we have a fan oven).
Cook the leeks in the butter till they are soft and glossy.

Beat the cream and remaining egg yolks vigorously with a little salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Remove whisk from the hands of Smallest Chef.
Wash egg splashes from the hair of Small Chef.
Explain that cold water is best for this as hot water may cook the egg on the hair.
Discuss the temperature required to cook an egg.
Agree that washing the egg out with hot water would be an interesting and potentially useful experiment.
Decide to do it another day.

Cut two opposing sides off the camembert or brie and set aside.
Explain that neither chef should eat them as the rind is made of mould so, in the end, they would just be eating sliced mould.
Discover that Small Chef now really wants to find out what it is like to eat mould.
Smallest Chef was not listening and, as such, simply wants to eat them anyway.
Accept that you are fooling nobody.
Place these extraneous slices of cheese on a plate, on the highest shelf of the fridge.
Now slice the rest of the camembert-or-whatever into creamy lengths ringed with delicious mould.

Spread the squidgy leek-rings across the base of the pie-case, pour over the cream and egg mixture, and lay the sliced cheese across the top.

Return the whole thing to the oven for half an hour till it is just set in the middle and not yet burned outside.

Serve with salad********* and a health warning.

*From Flemish, apparently.
It's a Flemish pie**.

**Or possibly a pie that looks Flemish, or that someone thought was Flemish, or that someone just decided would sell better if they called it Flemish.
There are a lot of those around, like Danish pastries***, French**** silk pie***** and, of course Hamburgers******.
Flamiche is apparently a Walloon speciality.
Whether it was originally Flemish, or they just liked the name I have no idea.

*** The Danes call them Vienna Bread.


*****Coming soon.

******Also American.

*******It helps if you have cut a line into the butter at roughly the point where you will need to stop grating.
This can make a wonderful opportunity for a maths lesson: weighing the butter, then working out what proportion of the 150g will give you the 125g you need here.
Or you can just estimate it.
Estimation is maths too, right?

********And I'm just thinking out loud here, but something with peppery leaves, asparagus tips*********, maybe some halved, sweet, ripe cherry tomatoes would be wonderful.
You could add boiled new potatoes too, or go completely insane and parboil the new potatoes then cut them almost all the way through into slices and roast them in olive oil before sprinkling with salt to make Hasselback potatoes.
I gave you an extra recipe.
And, if you do eat all that at once, possibly a heart attack.

**********They were in season when we made this.
They really were.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Eleanor does Gender Studies

I should probably write some kind of apology for the hiatus here, with assurances that I won't do it again.
But that's boring*, so let's just move along.

There are days when everything goes neatly into the box I expected it would, and days when I'm completely foiled in my attempts to educate.
There are also days when a simple idea becomes something so monumental that I want to run about screaming with excitement** but I can't because we're too busy doing whatever it is.

Then there are days where, without any prompting from me, one of the girls will pick up an idea, or ask a question, and suddenly we're studying a completely different topic to the one I'd intended.

And then there's Eleanor's Week of Gender Studies.

It started innocuously enough: I'd set Ellie the task of imagining a person from a world completely unlike ours, and then considering what that person would think of some simple items from our home***.

So she wrote out a description of her person:

"They are from Neptune.
 They are half fairy and half alien.
 They are both male and female.
They are very small and their hair is green tentacles".



I had a few questions about this.

First I asked her what she meant by both male and female: did she mean the people on Neptune could be male or female, or something else?
No: she meant that her person was both male and female, like all the other people on Neptune.
Then did she mean that they were emotionally or mentally genderfluid****, or was this a biological trait.
Biological: people from Neptune have both boy parts and girl parts.

There followed a long conversation during which I mentioned that there were people just like that on Earth, offered the term intersex as being more appropriate than "both male and female", discussed the varying degrees by which a person could be male or female or otherwise, touched upon the differences between sex and gender, mentioned the us of ze as an alternative to he or she*****, confirmed that yes "they" would be fine for her Neptunian if the Neptunians preferred that, asked how said Neptunians would know the difference between one person or several and somewhere along the lines realised that I was having this entire conversation with a six year old.

Then she went back to her desk****** and wrote about the ways in which a tentacle headed, six inch high, intersex person from Neptune would view some simple household objects.
It turned out neither sex nor gender really had much impact.

And then we got on with our day.

That was on the Tuesday.
Wednesday passed with nothing unusual bar a few questions as to why people thought some things were for girls and others for boys..
On the Thursday we set off to ballet class.*******

All proceeded as usual until it was time to get changed for Phoebe's class, when, seemingly out of nowhere Eleanor suddenly asked: "Mummy, why do we have different changing rooms for men and women?"
 This being a question which has occasionally bothered me, I found it a little different to answer.
Eventually I settled for explaining that some people weren't happy about dressing or undressing in front of people who might be attracted to them, or to whom they might be attracted, and that sometimes they might have to worry about people looking at them in a way that made them uncomfortable.
I declined, at this time, to discuss rape, in a public changing room, with a six-year-old, however pretty much everything that she said next applied pretty well in that case too.

In a voice clearly designed to carry into every corner of the building, Eleanor declared that this, was silly.
She further added that it "wouldn't even work, because boys can be in love with boys and girls can be in love with girls, and anyone can be attracted********* to anyone and if they're that worried why don't we just have cubicles?"
And some more that I can't quite recall at present.
I think she may have punched the air a few times.

So I agreed that, yes, it was quite silly when she put it like that, and she was preaching to the choir here anyway, and preaching to the choir was just an expression that meant I already agreed with her, and yes, people did have stupid ideas but could she perhaps lower her voice just a bit because now she seemed to be making that lady over there a little uncomfortable with all the shouting?

And then she muttered something about people needing to be uncomfortable if the world was stupid and we went off and waited for their teacher to arrive.

I rather thought that would be it for that day.

During Phoebe's class the parents tend to congregate outside, letting the children learn on their own, but staying within reach in case we're needed.
Naturally this leads to conversation.
One of the mothers (and it is all mothers and grandmothers out there, except for Eleanor) noticed that Ellie was reading Doll Bones by Holly Black and asked if she enjoyed horror stories.
 From here we began discussing our own literary preferences and it transpired that everyone there enjoyed horror, James Herbert being the most popular author, while no-one had any interest in the sex-and-shopping or romance novels generally marketed towards women.
So we talked about the foolishness of stereotyping for a bit, before it was time to go back in and collect our various offspring.

As we walked through the door I heard one mother observe to another that, yes, her daughter loved ballet too, "I think it's something girls just naturally gravitate to".
At this point I became both incredibly glad and rather sorry that I'd asked Eleanor to lower her voice earlier, as she grabbed my sleeve and whispered "Do you think she listened to anything she was just saying?"

And then we went and did a maths activity involving buried treasure.

On Friday we went to the library, where Eleanor got out a number of books about a girl's adventures in fairyland.

Because that's fine too.

*And, honestly, I will do it again.

**Or blog about it.

***For our archaeology project: when you think about it, this is often what an archaeologist is like when they first approach a site.

****Yes. I explained the concept of genderfluidity to a six-year-old.

***** "But some people don't like that either darling, so it's better to ask, if you don't think it would be impolite to do so".

******It's an antique school desk with an inkwell and a place for a pen and I love it.

*******Our Thursday: I get up and drag anyone who isn't up out of bed.
After two bus journeys, (during which we read, to various values of the word read) we grab lunch somewhere and either shop or visit a soft play centre where I will spend seventy five percent of my time looking for one daughter on behalf of the other.
Following this we have Phoebe's ballet class, then a gap where they get changed then sit with a friend and do some activity I've cobbled together (usually sneaky maths).
Then Eleanor has her class while Phoebe and I sit in a coffee shop with friends and re-enact Sex in the City******** with two adults and two three year olds, then we take Eleanor to Rainbows, then there's dinner, then games night and then I fall over.

********I have never seen Sex in the City.
But I have seen adverts.

********* Although she actually said attractled, instead of attracted.
She also mispronounced cubicle.