Dr Sister Outlaw just loves butter/flour combos

Am currently feeling rather more prepared for Christmas than is usual. (Zoe made me feel very chuffed by asking me advice on pudding preparation by SMS). As a result, I am on top of the shopping and have accepted invites to (a) mother-of-boyfriend’s drinks (b) aunty-of-boyfriend’s Xmas dinner. Was a bit flummoxed when I realised that I really ought to take something to both events, but have no cash whatsoever (as going to Thailand and Vietnam shortly). So, in a fit of idiocy, I decided to make shortbread, using pretty angel, star and love heart cookie cutters that I bought today.

I haven’t done this since I was 24 or 25, which was quite some time ago. And, after I started, I remembered why. All that butter and all that flour, rice flour and sugar surely makes an unholy mess once you get going. Particularly if you have not yet made pastry in the new house and have no bench space. Particularly if you are so stupid as to double the recipe, as I did today (I’m not giving you the recipe, it’s the one off the McCormack rice flour packet, so you can’t go wrong).

I generally, genuinely, love making pastry and home-made pasta, because of that magic moment that occurs when the dry ingredients and the fat or the eggs just, you know, happen, and you get the elastic dough that you are aiming for. I learned a while ago that the old rubbing in method is pretty damned frustrating and that a blender works very well indeed (you do want lumps of butter in pastry, but that’s another story). However, even with a blender, f***ing shortbread just never seems like it is going to come together. This was not at all helped by my sudden discovery that I DON’T HAVE A ROLLING PIN. Jesus, how did I move out from the ex without the freakin’ rolling pin? How have I lived, in two houses, without one?

Despite these setbacks, it did finally come together, with a fair bit of manual handling. There is an old adage about how pastry cooks are supposed to keep things cold and use only the tips of their cool little fingers to rub butter and flour together, but, really, if you don’t use your toasty warm palms you will never, ever, get the butter and flour bits of the shortbread to hang together, let alone be able to flatten them into a nice even pattie and cut them with cookie cutters.

So, I used my palms and rolled out batches with the wine bottle I finished off last night with the boyfriend. God, it went on for hours, the rolling, cutting out and baking. But goodness me, it was worth it. Baked for about 30 minutes in my brand new fan-forced electric oven … yum.

AND I get to be all smug and say ‘yes, of course I made them myself.’ God, home cooking is brilliantly satisfying.

And then we ate the hare

Today my sister, her partner Anne and their kids Ciara and Reece joined us for The Eating of The Hare. They took our bigger boy out to lunch and Owy went to cricket, so I had a couple of hours of uninterrupted kitchen time to potter while our smaller boy slept. There is nothing nicer than feeding people that you care about, and to be feeding them food which they’d been responsible for increased the pleasure. Anne is a bit of a spoiler, so things kicked off with spiders made with sexy ice cream and Cascade soft drinks:


I’m not sure if that’s sharing or territorial pissing that you’re seeing in that picture, but that’s five year old boys for you.

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A spooky salad for Friday the 13th

From epicurious, via the best-named food blog evah, Rachel’s Thus Bakes Zarathustra, a slightly spooky salad for Owy to take to the school fundraiser trivia night. (I was going, but have got an evil lurgy and instead I am going to bed with a pile of magazines. There is no need to feel sorry for me as I have been doing a very good job of that myself. But thank you.)

I hate it when “bring food to share” turns into six kinds of dip and two kinds of biscuits, so the plan is to take some trimmed up corn mountain bread and let people make little wrappy things with this rather lurid beetroot pesto from stone soup and the salad.

I used tinned black beans, which Rachel found impossible to find. I’ve only found organic ones, which suits me fine. I used a little hack picked up from another outspoken female (I think) and briefly boiled the tinned beans to remove any metallic flavour. Because I am undeniably poncy, and because it is Friday the 13th, I used black quinoa.


Who knew there was such a world of quinoa? I’ve seen the white and red varieties before, but the health food store at the local shops has a new owner and she’s really expanded their product range. She didn’t know much about it, other than it was organic, and she suggested that you could cook all three kinds together. Not sure about that, as the black to me is a little toothier than the white or red. I boiled then steamed it as per the epicurous method and I’m a convert. The little white rings so characteristic of quinoa become more apparent after cooking, so you lose some of the intensity of the colour, but it has that lovely quinoa nuttiness. The salad dressing features melted butter and lime juice so of course it’s excellent.

You’d think that realising how much of my thinking about what to have for dinner comes from food blogs might stop me buying cookbooks, wouldn’t you?

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