Antonia Landi

Archive for October, 2011|Monthly archive page

Snow White’s poisoned apple – Better than Toast

In Entertainment, Food, Student life on October 27, 2011 at 9:27 pm

Picture: disney.wikia.com

 

For ages I didn’t know what to cook for this week’s recipe – I knew I wanted to make something for Halloween, but what? Pumpkin pie? Pumpkin bread? Pumpkin cake? My final recipe turned out to be a lot less orange than expected…

Apart from my get-up, this recipe was actually quite scary to make. Ever since messing up my first batch of custard I have an irrational fear of messing it up again. So I stand by the stove, stirring until my arm falls off and carefully watching the custard’s every move. For a less traumatic experience, just stick to the recipe! A bain-marie is pretty much the safest way of making custard – by only gradually adding heat to the mixture the chances of it turning into scrambled eggs is virtually zero. If you are adding corn flour to the mix make sure you sift it – no one likes clumpy custard! Finally, enjoy watching your custard thicken. For ages nothing will happen and you start having doubts whether you’re doing things right, but when things start to get creamy, you suddenly realize that you just made your first delicious bowl of homemade custard. How British!

Apple-wise, make sure to choose a variety that is firm cooking and lends itself to baking. I used red delicious because of their taste and colour, but have a look at the links below for more inspiration. Some people just core the apple without first cutting the top off – it’s up to you what you go for, I just prefer my apples with a hat! When coring, make sure that you remove all inedible parts of the apple (e.g. seeds etc) and don’t go too far down! It is easy to slip with your spoon and accidentally break your apple, so I would suggest buying one or two more, just in case.

You could replace the apple juice in the recipe with plain water if you wanted to, the juice is just there to make sure that the bottoms of the apples don’t burn to the oven dish. And if you want to go budget, vanilla essence works just as fine as actual pods, and check the baking aisle for cheaper raisins!

 

Feeds 3:

For the apples:

3 firm-cooking red apples (I used red delicious)

2 handfuls of dried fruits & pecans

2 tbsp syrup

150 ml apple juice

 

For the custard:

150 ml milk

150 ml single cream

1 vanilla pod

3-4 egg yolks (depending on size)

Green food colouring

Corn flour (optional)

Bake apples for approx 30-40 minutes. Make custard in the meantime!

Watch the video for instructions, and do get in touch if you have any questions, as silly as you think they might be!

And finally, have a look at these great links for inspiration and information.

 

Custard-related science anyone? This informative website holds all the custard facts your heart could desire!

You can’t serve this dish without proper Halloween decoration! Here are some great ideas on how to make your own!

Finally, have you ever wondered what the differences between different kinds of apples are? I know I have! This website has an extensive list of apple varieties, their look, taste and texture. And with its handy sidebar you can easily navigate the hundreds of apples!

 

Antonia Landi for the Useful Times.

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Are you a macfag?

In Entertainment, Opinion on October 23, 2011 at 3:55 pm

As soon as the news of Steve Jobs’s death hit the headlines, tribute facebook statuses and tweets were unstoppable. Apparently, Steve Jobs was an ‘innovator’ and a ‘legend’ that ‘transformed’ the way we look at personal computers. All of a sudden, everybody seemed to be an expert in computer technology and macfans were sprouting out of every crease. I own a MacBook, and an iPod, but I am quite happy to admit that I don’t really know what Jobs’s contribution to technology entailed. Apart from setting up a massive empire that has gained cult status despite its increasing commercial success, Steve Jobs was just the head of yet another company. But let’s look at this cultural phenomenon a bit more closely.

Mac users are generally considered to be hip, cool and creative types – the kind that edit videos and music on their laptop, instead of slowly sinking into the black hole that is the spreadsheet. I’m serious. There are videos about this.

You just need to google ‘macfag’ to realise just how much Apple products have been adopted into modern culture. The term is obviously meant as an insult, but the war between winfags and macfags is long from over. For some reason, the stereotype that mac users are somehow cooler than windows users seems engrained in modern society. Admittedly, mac users tend to have more money (which is why they can afford to own a mac) which in turn means that they are likely to spend more money on their appearance and social life. But that still doesn’t explain why they need to dress like this or behave like this. I think the biggest problem is that most mac users are hipsters. If you are a hipster, chances are that you own at least one (or three) apple branded products. But what once started as a small-ish company that merely offered an alternative to the monopoly of Bill Gates has now turned into an annoying, ever-present business card for people that want to be ‘different’. It seems that the only way you can make your creativity credible, is by using a mac to edit/cut/re-draft whatever ‘art’ you think you are doing. No mac? Sorry, but you’re obviously not cool enough.

I own a mac because I like their simplistic layout and overall appearance. Yes, I do want my laptop to look as good as it works, and yes, I am aware that I probably could have gotten a much better computer for my money had I chosen to opt for windows. What saddens me is that all this stereotyping is causing Apple more harm than good. Instead of appreciating these products for what they are – well made, designed pieces of technology that are easy to use in everyday life – they have become a mere accessory of every hipster from here to down under. But what is even more baffling is that everyone who wants to be seen as your archetypical mac user usually has left-wing political views and is concerned about the environment and ethics. Do I really need to point out to you how much money Apple makes off guys like you? I’m not even going to mention the child labour and environmental issues.

Luckily, Steve Jobs’s death is old news now, and the wave of macfans has reduced. All that is left now are the usual macfags, whose prime habitat is the coffee shop, you know, so that everyone can see how creative they are in public.

Thai inspired vegan stir fry – Better than Toast

In Food, Student life on October 19, 2011 at 5:39 pm

Picture: sxc.hu

Well, winter is finally here. I have already turned my heating on and I don’t leave the house without a scarf anymore. I think it’s time for some comfort food!

As the temperature drops I have noticed myself grabbing far too easily for those naughty snacks we all know too well. Admittedly, a baked potato is far more appealing in this kind of weather than a salad, and hoarding food reserves (in your belly!) to survive the winter months is just a natural reaction to the cold. But why does comfort food have to be so bad for you? A dish doesn’t automatically have to be bad for your waistline in order to be comforting. That’s what I thought when I came up with today’s recipe. A hot, fragrant and spicy stir-fry that is not only vegan, but gluten free too!

If you’ve never cooked with rice noodles before, you’ll be in for a treat. They work fantastically well with coconut milk and are ridiculously easy to prepare. There are two kinds of rice noodles available in supermarkets: dried ones, that come in a packet similar to that of spaghetti, and fresh, or pre-soaked ones. The latter you can use straight out of the pack – just add them to your pan, but the dried ones you will have to soak in water for a couple of minutes before you can cook with them. It’s super easy; just follow the instructions on the pack and you’ll be ready to go. Which thickness you go for in the end is completely up to you – I used ribbon noodles, but any other ones work just as well.
If you want to take your stir-fry further, add some fresh coriander to your dish and fry the ingredients in sesame oil. Do add some kaffir lime leaves if you can find them – I had no luck in my local supermarket, but I hear that they like to hide in the seasoning aisle!

Finally, if you’re really desperate for some flesh between your teeth there are a variety of ingredients you can add. I would suggest using prawns, but you could use chicken or pork if you wanted to.

Feeds 2:

1 can coconut milk

1 tin bamboo shoots & water chestnuts

100g shiitake mushrooms

1 pack rice noodles (equal to 300g)

2 sticks lemongrass

2 spring onions

1 piece fresh ginger, grated (about thumb-length)

2 garlic cloves

1 green chilli (careful, these are hot! Wash your hands immediately after chopping! De-seed for a milder experience)

Pinch of vegetable stock cube, crumbled (optional)

Watch the video for instructions, and do get in touch if you have any questions, as silly as you think they might be!

And finally, have a look at these great links for inspiration and information.

The first time I ever attempted to cook a Thai dish, nobody told me what to do with the lemongrass. If you are still unsure about how to prepare it, have a look at this very helpful video! Sadly, our lemongrass isn’t nearly that tall.

In the mood for some more Thai food or just bought too many ingredients? Here is an easy recipe for green curry paste! You will have most of the ingredients already at hand, and don’t panic if you can’t find a particular spice/root/herb – just get whatever you can find and make the most of it.

If you are anything like me, you just can’t stay away from coconut milk. Its creamy goodness is so versatile and most of all, delicious! This website is packed with ideas for tasty coconut milk smoothies – can I hear a blender whizzing?

 

Antonia Landi for the Useful Times.

Savoury Gugelhupf – Better than Toast

In Food, Student life on October 16, 2011 at 5:06 pm

Picture: kuechengoetter.de

It’s October and for some reason half the people I know (including myself!) were born during this month, which means that I’ve been busy baking cakes for everyone! Even though I love baking, I rarely eat more than a little slice of cake myself. So this week I thought I’d treat myself and bake my favourite kind of cake – a savoury cake!

Now, before you all go ‘Gugelwhat?’ I should add that it is not in any case vital that you bake this cake in the recommended shape. The Gugelhupf is just very common where I come from and a welcome treat at any house, but more of that later. Apart from being very popular, this kind of cake is also known for coming in sweet as well as savoury varieties. Adapting the recipe just a little will make the world of a difference. The base recipe is ideal to carry any flavours – I used pancetta and onion in mine, but you could easily make a vegetarian version by adding a strong flavoured cheese and chopped walnuts. If your supermarket doesn’t carry cubed pancetta you can very easily go for lardons instead – just make sure you cut them into a more agreeable size. As a rough guideline, you’d like the ingredients to be small enough to be manageable when working into the dough, but you don’t want to pulverise them – finding a cube of meat in your cake is just as delightful as the odd chocolate chunk! If you’d like to go herby, try adding parsley to this recipe. And finally, I must vouch for investing in a proper Gugelhupf tin – you can get them as cheaply as for a fiver (I got mine from TKMaxx!) and they come in a variety of shapes, which make the whole thing a bit more special. And with this I give you permission to tuck into your cake as soon as it comes out of the oven – what better way to spend tea time than to have a piece of soft, warm, homemade Gugelhupf.

Makes 1 Gugelhupf (which serves 8 or more, depending on your portions)

500g plain flour

1 egg

1 packet of dried yeast (7g)

200ml milk

100g butter, plus extra for greasing

200g cubed pancetta (or lardons)

1 medium onion, finely chopped

Make dough and leave to rise for one hour. Knead in pancetta and onion and leave to rise for a further 15 minutes in tin. Bake for approx 1 hour on a medium heat. You may cover the top loosely with tinfoil towards the end to prevent it from browning too much. Turn over and serve!

Watch the video for instructions, and do get in touch if you have any questions, as silly as you think they might be!

And finally, have a look at these great links for inspiration and information.

You’ve heard of a bundt cake before but Gugelhupf just sounds too bizarre? Follow this link to learn all about this (largely) German teatime treat (and how to pronounce it!). Packed with essential information and links to some lovely recipes.

If you’d like to try a sweet version before going for the full-on savoury one, search no more. This website has an easy to follow simple recipe for sweet Gugelhupf aimed at children, PLUS your very first German lesson! Learn as you eat, I say!

Last but not least, here is some inspiration on how to take your savoury cake baking further. I highly recommend the Goat’s cheese with raisins and hazelunts cake – a match made in heaven!

 

Antonia Landi for the Useful Times.

How to make a Minecraft cake – Better than Toast Extra

In Food on October 11, 2011 at 7:19 pm

Picture: Antonia Landi

As the title suggests, we’re going to make a Minecraft cake today. This will require some assembly and some patience – you don’t know how difficult it is to make a cube cake until you try it! As I only have round tins, my version is a bit more complicated, but if you have the time, money and oven space to spare, you should be okay with simply baking three layers of square cake and then stacking them.

Since we want to recreate the ‘dirt’ part of the square without any additional icing, we will be baking a hazelnut and chocolate cake today. I had trouble finding any ground hazelnut in my local supermarkets for some bizarre reason, but found out that they are incredibly easy to grind in your average food processor! Just whiz two handfuls at a time and you’ll be done in no time.

Just as last week, we’re working with icing to create the grassy top. Marzipan works just as well, and if you can find it already coloured that’s even better! A helpful tip is to roll out the icing on greaseproof paper and then simply put it on the cake while the icing is still attached to the paper – it makes it a bit easier to work with and you won’t run the risk of accidentally stretching the icing out of shape on your way over to the cake.

And with all this said, here is the recipe!

300g self-raising flour

300g caster sugar

250g ground hazelnuts

230g butter

5 eggs

150g chololate

500g icing

1/2 bottle green food colouring

 

Bake on a medium heat for approximately one hour

Watch the video for instructions, and do get in touch if you have any questions, as silly as you think they might be!

Polenta & sausages with seasonal mushrooms in a red wine sauce

In Food, Student life on October 5, 2011 at 11:42 am

Picture: Antonia Landi

The nights are getting longer and the days are getting colder and this can only mean one thing – it’s Mushroom season!

If you are a regular vegetable buyer you will have spotted them already – strange looking mushrooms in all shapes, sizes and colours. They are in supermarkets, local organic food stores, even in the park! The mushroom is taking over and I couldn’t be happier. The great thing about this season is that it really is unique – only from now until November we will have deliciously different mushrooms in abundance, and then they will all be gone again. I say to hell with the common closed-cap mushroom, let the (relatively short-lived) revolution begin!

Up here in Scotland we can definitely feel the cold coming to get us, and that got me thinking about comfort food. I love nothing more than a steaming plateful of something filling to really appreciate the season. The British are very good at making lovely comforting dishes, and I immediately thought about bangers and mash. But while there is absolutely nothing wrong with that dish, I wanted to make something a bit more special. I realise that even just the name of today’s recipe might be a bit intimidating, but I hope the video will show just how easy it is to prepare this meal. And besides, anything with the words ‘seasonal’ and ‘red wine sauce’ in its description is fancy enough to impress your date!

Now, for those who have never tried polenta before, the best way to describe it is ‘corn porridge’. That might not sound incredibly appetising, but polenta is a great substitute for mash, and stunningly versatile. It is made of ground cornmeal, and its preparation traditionally involves hours and hours of stirring. Luckily for us, there is something called ‘instant polenta’ which is just as tasty, and you needn’t stir for more than 5 minutes. Since polenta is in itself quite plain, it is a great vessel for other flavours. It is by far at its best with some Gorgonzola stirred in – the creamy, yet sharp taste of the Gorgonzola melted into polenta is simply divine. Last but not least choose a full-bodied red wine for your sauce as this will go wonderfully with your venison – and stay away from cooking wines!

Feeds 2:

100g polenta

6 coarse-cut sausages (I used venison sausages)

200g seasonal mushrooms (I used girolle, pied bleu and brown beech mushrooms)

1/3 sliced onion

1 glass of wine (approx 175ml)

1 handful grated hard cheese, such as parmiggiano reggiano

Knob of butter

Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the polenta for between 1-5 minutes, depending on whether you want it soft, like mash, or firm, so that you could cut it with a knife.

Watch the video for instructions, and do get in touch if you have any questions, as silly as you think they might be!

And finally, have a look at these great links for inspiration and information.

If you are a fan of polenta, make twice as much and then use the leftovers in some of these tasty recipes! From pan-frying it to sticking it in the oven, there is nothing polenta can’t handle.

Mushroom season is upon us but you can’t distinguish an oyster from a morel? Then this website should help! Not only does this site have a wonderful array of pictures of popular mushrooms, it also tells you what you can do with them.

And if you’re feeling especially brave, why not go into the woods yourself? This article tells you all about mushroom picking – just make sure you know what you’re cooking!

 

Antonia Landi for the Useful Times.

Film review – The Light Bulb Conspiracy

In Entertainment, Film on October 4, 2011 at 8:58 pm

Picture: trisickle.co.uk

The Light Bulb Conspiracy can be described as many things. It’s a documentary, first and foremost, and therefore pretty informative. But it is also shocking.

If you, like me, have never heard of something called ‘planned obsolescence’ be ready for a biggie. Now, on a day-to-day basis, I am quite happy to assume that the big driving forces of our society genuinely aim to improve our lives. Not because of naivety, but more because I feel this mindset could actually bring us closest to something we call peaceful existence. Help and be helped, right? Well, no. Actually, there are worldwide conspiracies whose only aim it is to make us use more, and therefore buy more. But surely, it can’t all be that bad? Well, in this film it is.

Like any other documentary, The Light Bulb Conspiracy is here to make the viewer think. The film consists of experts from all over the world talking about this economic phenomenon and its consequences and it takes us from to America’s Great Depression right down to present day Ghana. The themes range from consumerism to global environmental issues and the pictures quite often leave you speechless. Even though we start out in the 1920s all of the topics addressed are absolutely relevant to today’s society, let alone economy. What the film most effectively does is make you wonder. How much do we not know? What is really going on? Will we ever be able to fight back?

Stylistically, The Light Bulb Conspiracy is just your average documentary. Narrated by a female voice and interjected with suggestive music here and there, it recounts the history of economic conspiracies such as the one of the light bulb, by mixing old footage and present day interviews. There is nothing that hadn’t been done before, but this is not necessarily negative. Because the viewer is likely to be familiar with this sort of documentary, the topic in itself can shine. At times it feels like the pace and choice of the music and images is set in such a way to trigger automatic emotive responses to what is being said or shown. One of the setbacks of this is the constant need to re-asses your own impressions and opinions. The Light Bulb Conspiracy is a well-made documentary that can leave the viewer feeling very strongly about its subjects if one gave in to its persuasiveness. It’s easy to get carried away by this film, and this only proves how well it has been put together. Especially if you consider the length, which, at just under an hour, isn’t very much at all. The Light Bulb Conspiracy has the ability to tell just what is necessary, therefore making it a fast-paced and interesting film from start to finish. While this is a desirable trait in a documentary, some themes could have easily been fleshed out a little. Throughout the whole documentary, the viewer is constantly introduced to a new speaker with a theory of his own, and quite often it feels like you’ve barely seen the tip of the iceberg and you’re already being hurried along to the next conspiracy. But what really makes this film stand out is the variety of voices being heard. From Ghana to Germany to the United States to Russia, the speakers are all integral parts to the story and offer a wide variety of theories and ideas.

All in all, The Light Bulb Conspiracy is definitely worth a watch. From start to finish, it is interesting, revealing and entertaining. Just make sure you don’t get sucked in too much.

Antonia Landi for Trisickle.

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