Monday, 24 October 2016

The people need more experts. Introducing #BakeWithALegend

In the age of social media – everyone’s an expert. I know exactly what a girl I met briefly on a course seven years ago thinks of last night’s episode of BBC Question Time and I know that  my ex-work colleague just made and snapchatted some 'homemade' sausage rolls. But what does it all mean? And how can we glean value from content overload without actually experiencing things first hand? Do I have to keep taking people’s word for it – for example, is that hot new vegan-pick n’ mix-coffee shop-owl-petting-zoo pop-up really as good as it sounds just because it got 107 likes on Instagram?

The answer it seems, is simple. We need to do more things in real life that have experts in their field at the helm, sharing their wealth of knowledge first hand. During his campaign for an EU exit, Michael Gove famously said: ‘The people have had enough of experts’. This astonishing quote was extremely short-sighted. Would he have said this if he’d had the chance to #bakewithalegend? I think not, and as such, Brexit may never have happened.

I had the time of my life at new social event concept ‘BakeWith a Legend’ – the ingenious event format perfect for groups of friends – be it hen do revellers, corporate team building events, milestone birthday celebrants or indeed a group of friends looking for an alternative way to spend a weekend afternoon other than the obligatory‘bottomless brunch’. It would also be the perfect ‘experience’ gift for Christmas. It was like I was in the TV. I was a contestant on the Great British Bake Off (let's go for a northern Candice), flung right into the show’s very essence - and it was Pastry Week.


Not only do you get access to minds from the Great British Bake Off’s glory days at the BBC – I got to absorb the baking words of wisdom from Howard Middleton and Glenn Cosby – you really do have a lot of fun creating delicious baked goods you never thought you could make. I had a good go at glamourous chocolate eclairs, which we got to decorate with gold leaf and glitter. The kind of indulgence on a Thursday evening I’d imagine only Kimye have attained in the past. The prosecco helped too – my chocolate frosting glided onto the ├ęclair with an imbued confidence.  Just being in the same room as Howard and Glenn allowed me to find out exactly where I'd failed in the kitchen previously, with little tips the recipe doesn't tell you. For example, how to bring your praline back from the brink, and how your choux mix should be smooth and dried out, and not too wet and resembling cellulite (this was an actual pre-piping tip that ensured golden buns).


It was like an all-star "pimp my bake-off" celebrity version of my home economics class (highlights of the latter which haunt me include frying fresh parsley, forgetting to switch the oven on and having to crack eggs for my 'cooking buddy' as he'd never cracked an egg in his life) – and the best part – you don’t have to do the washing up!
Cracking eggs like a pro

Series 4 GBBO contestant Glenn Cosby, who's a consultant for Bake With a Legend, says “I am so excited to be a part of such a great concept bringing people together to do something new and entertaining. Bake With a Legend lays on everything, so all you need to do is turn up and be ready to get involved and have fun!”.

I also had a great chat with Howard, who told me he'd thought Benjamina for the win, which unfortunately isn't meant to be....he also told me he swears by butter in cakes. I'll steer away from the Stork in future.

The concept is the brainchild of Josh Landy, founder of Play With a Legend, a sporting concept that enables fans to play sporting events with their idols. Landy says "Bake With a Legend, is all about trying something new and having fun with friends, family and colleagues. The feedback from our initial events has been that people love the chance be taught by some of their TV baking heroes. As baking shows get ever-more popular we are expecting demand to rise and rise so anyone who’s interested should get in touch and let us provide them with an event to remember ".

Prices starting from £95pp. For more information, go to bakewithalegend.com.


To see what it’s like to Bake With a Legend, watch Bake With a Legend's promo video here 

Sunday, 26 January 2014

The Morning After The Burns Night Before Marmalade

       Crowdie-time!


I got two very exciting communications about jam this week; the first being this article by Will Self in the New Statesman: 

In defence of jam, that gooey ambrosia  (via Chris Sav),

and the second being an email from my jam jar supplier, announcing "IT'S MARMALADE SEASON"

So, I headed to Sainsburys, picked up some oranges that were on offer, and then stopped by my local corner shop to get the best bottle of whisky I could buy for under £10. I settled on Teachers, which provides a convenient hand-held bottle for £5.99.

Why not try this recipe to mark the morning after Burns Night, and remember that wonderful night of poetry, Scotland and Haggis.

Recipe:

5 oranges (3 finely sliced, 2 with peel removed and roughly chopped
3.5 cap-fulls of whisky
Equal weight of sugar (to oranges)
Juice of 1 small lemon


Method

Combine all the ingredients on a low heat until sugar is dissolved
Boil mixture on high heat for about 40 mins
Allow to cool slightly
Steralise two jam jars and fill them with the marmalade

Enjoy!




Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Avoid a Bonfire Night Michael Buerk 999 special with this spiced plum jam recipe


Did you know? The most dangerous place to be on Bonfire Night is your own back garden. I think making a pot of potentially scalding jam in the kitchen on Bonfire Night could come a close second, but I know where i'd rather be.

Personally, I don't have a problem with Guy Fawkes, so whilst others will this evening take on a Michael Buerk 999 reconstruction scenario, I've opted to set aside the sparklers and rockets for a pan of jam.



If you do have 31 minutes and 28 seconds spare, it's worth watching this Bonfire Night Special of 999 from 1995, still as relevant then as it is now. Highlights include the safety advice, and the orchestral theme tune. Poor Uncle Terry!

  • Never use petrol on a bonfire
  • Check for animals before lighting




Here is a recipe for spiced plum jam

Ingredients

8 large plums (I used mixed varieties)
2 cups sugar
juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
2-3 teaspoons mixed spice
1 cinnamon stick

Cut the plums into quarters, removing the stone
Put in pan
Add sugar and lemon
Add cinnamon stick and spices
Dissolve under a medium heat
Boil on a high heat for 20 mins
Leave to cool slightly and put in steralised jars
Place lid on and tighten when cool

Variation

Add a red onions, red wine vinegar, cumin and mustard seeds to make spiced plum chutney, to go with cold meats.



Thursday, 31 October 2013

English Jam in very real Halloween nightmare

Slow Jammin' responds to new Government regulation that will affect sugar levels in jam

We've all seen the headlines this morning. Whilst spreading jam of a much loved and historic jelly-like consistency onto my bagel, I was shocked to hear that the Government has left jam lovers in a sticky situation. Not content with Halloween being scary enough, the Government has dragged jam makers into a very real nightmare.

Jam to lose its firm wobble

First it was the relentless documentation of Kate Middy's post-baby wobble-free volley-ball belly. Now jam too is having its wobble called into question.

When will society stop judging things by their looks?

Lib Dem MP Tessa Munt expressed this will change the face of British breakfasts, and I must say, she has a point. There are other ways, of course, that you can get a firm wobble:

  • Pectin
  • High fructose corn syrup
But as a novice jam-maker, these don't sound very appetising to me.

Take the edge off the news and make some crafty Halloween jam jars.





Saturday, 12 October 2013

The Only Way is Jammatology

The Only Way is Jammatology (or 'T.O.W.I.J')





I first got to know of Chris Sav (or @disappointman for the inter-webbers) from Jammatology duo after watching a performance from London-based theatre company Love Bites Plays. His 'Ode to a teabag' script had been selected to be part of the show and  was the first play i'd seen which successfully conveyed love and loss between a human and transient, inanimate object. Not personally familiar with the ways of a tea-bag, by the end of the performance I was reaching for the PG tips. With perhaps the blind-sighted enthusiasm of most novices, I went in hard, made myself a cup of builders tea and put up some shelving i'd been meaning to do for a while.

The impetus his play provided isn't far removed from the insight and illustrative wonderment gained from Jammatology; that is, his Jam-making movement. They even have their own Jampedia. Click here for my favourite entry. 

"Jammatology is the life support machine for the confused decaying limb of relativity, fastened awkwardly to the body of truth in a permanent death-grip of mutual dependency."

I was absolutely amazed when Chris tweeted the following video creation, 'Making Jam on a Friday Night'. The timing was uncanny, as I had just ventured into the unknown, set up this blog and created my first post, a recipe for 'Fig and Rosemary jam'. After the initial elation of putting thoughts from my head into a blog I could actually work out how to operate, I was a little concerned I would not be able to find others who would view or engage with the blog, relying on visits from my own technical devices to up the viewing statistics.



"Making Jam on a Friday Night" by Chris Sav www.banalmuffins.wordpress.com

I too, had been making jam on a Friday night, in a pocket of north-west England. Inspired that somebody else had been too, I opted to send Chris a  link to my blog for interest and was delighted when he offered to send me some jam to try.

Fast forward a week or so, and as if by magic, the Royal Mail managed to deliver the goods to my office. They were also in one piece. Wrapped in brown paper, the two flavours contained in the box were Peach and Elderflower and A Date with Earl Grey. I'm sure you have at times questioned what it would be like to go on A Date with Earl Grey and I can confidently tell you, he's getting a second date. Great style and all round pizzazz, he told a good story. Apparently he used to be a Georgian PM and was given a case of tea by a Chinese Mandarin. The Peach and Elderflower jam was of similar good company. It brings clarity to the mind, and for someone who is at times very indecisive, I was transformed into a shrewd thinker, much like Lord Grantham making decisions about his estate.

Boss Man


Here are some thoughts from colleagues in the office when the jars arrived:

"Let me put this on instagram"

"They are lovely, can I keep them?" [Me>] "No."

"I want to order some jam as a gift and also a print as I know someone who looks like the illustration of Earl Grey".

When I got in, my first thought was to bake some scones - some may argue that this is too obvious, but I wanted to give the jams a level playing field. Holding onto tradition as I ventured into exploring these delicious new flavours allowed me to stay grounded and fully appreciate what was in store. 

After a quick google, I found this Mary Berry recipe on the telegraph website, and left the house to go to the corner shop as we didn't have any flour, caster sugar or butter in. We had large eggs, milk and surprisingly, baking powder, in. What I didn't have however, was a rolling pin so used a mug then switched to a glass. I also didn't have a scone cutter so used a glass which felt very industrious.

Anyone who can wear a floral bomber jacket so well that it is still in my mind over a year later must know how to make a decent scone or two.

What a jacket!

Is it just me?

After some baking, I made the scones, and they were very excited.

#excitedscones

"Pick me, pick me!" They were thinking.

Chris then expressed via instagram that the preserves were nervous. #nervouspreserves

Each one comes with a Banalogram, a little dollop of pseudo-wisdom to start the day with.

After sharing the jam with friends and colleagues, I felt we all gained something. Jammatology repositions jam and gives it a humble dignity. We are not preached at, but instead given the space to think creatively about how jam fits into our lives. The range of flavours available can match our moods and give us that extra boost when we need a jar of jam to give us a new trail of thought outside of the usual realms. By providing this, Jammatology ensure that jam finds a place in our homes and doesn't get pushed to the back of the fridge and only taken out when you're making a Victoria Sponge or have run out of butter and the corner shop is shut.

In fact, it takes centre stage. I have made sure these little pots of delight are very much at the forefront of both the fridge and ways of thinking.

For more information about getting hold of some of this jam or the iconic prints, visit http://jammatology.wordpress.com/ or www.twitter.com/jammatology



Friday, 27 September 2013

Slow Jammin' #001 - Rosemary and Fig Jam

Rosemary and Fig Jam


The idea came to me after a friend bought some fig jam as a gift from France. Figs are great because they cross the boundary between sweet and savoury. From the traditional tea time treat (and almost as controversial as Marmite) - The Fig Roll, to my grandmother's fig and parma ham salad; or, as recently discovered, fig jam with cheese and biscuits.

With fresh rosemary growing in the front garden, I wanted to create something which could celebrate the fig as a sweet accompaniment to savoury, giving a nod to memories if holidays spent in Greece, with figs and honey.



Ingredients (makes one jar)

8 ripe figs
1 cup of golden granulated sugar
Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
4cm spring of rosemary (not the twiggy bits), finely chopped
1 tablespoon of honey

1. Stir all the ingredients over a gentle heat until the sugar has dissolved.

2. Boil over a high heat until the jam reaches setting point (this may take 30 mins).

Note - to test the setting point, drop a bit of jam onto a cold plate and it should set.

3. Let the jam cool for a bit before pouring into a sterilised jar.

4. Cover with lid whilst still hot.

5. Store in a cool, dry place.

Post jam analysis

This jam worked very well. It would be ideal with roast lamb, perhaps creating a glaze. It also tasted good with crumbly Lancashire cheese and crusty bread. Got me thinking - fig jam would be a perfect Christmas gift or stocking filler.

Have you tried making fig jam? Did you rate it?