Wednesday, October 29

Hampstead Rambling in the Snow

Angela and I are off work this week, as it is half-term here in London.
Half-terms come around every few months, but it was 1937 when it last snowed in London in October.

We put on our walking boots and walked a circular trip around Hampstead Heath via Kenwood, the Old Bull and Bush, West Heath, the Vale of Health and Parliament Hill, finishing with lunch in the Italian Cafe at Parli Hill.

It was amazing how few people we encountered.

The sun sent halos of light through the autumn sky

You could see that in snow, shadows are actually blue

And it seemed almost as if we had come upon the spirit of the Heath itself, energy writhing in tree form

All in all, a stunning day.


Sky said...

Since you seem to be too busy lately to write anything about food... here's a little something to jog those nimble fingers back into action. It was posted on my forum and as I read it... well obviously I thought of you!! :)

Here's a couple of neat tricks if you want to impress your friends and family.

Ice-ball: This is a good thing to learn to make. You need a good freezer, plus a reasonably circular-profile large bowl. Fill an ordinary balloon with water, to the size you want, about half the size of a bowling ball is a good start for beginners.

Put in the freezer in the bowl and rotate regularly (every 2hours or so). You will probably need to start first thing in the morning, because it will take up to two days to get it solid. Once it is rock-solid you can use your hands and a bowl of warm water to smooth it as round as you can get it, though it doesn't matter greatly how perfect it is, no-ones going to see it anyway, it's merely a tool.

Now, how to use it?

A: Leave it in it's bowl, having cut away the balloon.

Caramelize some sugar, quite a bit, half a kilo is a good start, (Add a dash of water, some cinnamon powder, warm till amber and molten over a low heat) Take the pan to the ball, and carefully pour it around the top, allowing it to run and set down the sides, like candle-wax.

If you're careful enough you can learn to make fine lattices and lace effects. I suggest you leave a small circular hole at the apex, tell you why in a sec'.

Once it's cooled, a matter of 5 minutes (it has to be icy cold) carefully remove it from the ball.

It will look like an amber glass shell, though I prefer to do it as a ring of slender legs and a top flower. This can be placed atop any cake or sweet dish, and if you put a candle beneath it, the effect is beautiful, though if you do that, you will need to leave that hole in the top I mentioned earlier, or it will burn and smell.

B: You can do all of the above with CHOCOLATE! And you can use more than one colour or type, to create spectacular impressions.

Next, far simpler trick:

Freeze an oven tray half full off water, cover with cling wrap, then grease-proof paper.

Melt chocolate, and you can use as many as you like, separately.

Draw a pattern or design, lace, circles, flowers, whatever, on the paper, and carefully drizzle the choc' along the design, making sure it is solid enough to hold itself together, practise will teach you this.

You can then place these on any cake or sweetie, as decor or part of it.

I used to make small nets of choc', usually white and dark running across each other, and keep them in the fridge. I'd let them warm a little, and roll them around a ball of ice-cream for the kids treats. You can roll cones, make triangles, any shape your imagination can come up with.

Make a few triangles and build a choc' lace pyramid, doner that, went over rather well, filled with strawberries and garnished with whipped cream !

Steve said...

Ok - You were right that it would get me back on the blog. Well done Sky!

Obviously down in Oz you believe in making work for yourselves. There is absolutely no need to go to all the two-day effort of making the ice-ball. If you want to make a caramel nest or basket, just oil a metal bowl or ladle and pour the caramel on. With practice you can achieve a fine filigree efect. There's no need for the bowl to be freezing cold - heating the sugar to the caramel stage means it will set solid anyway - think of a toffee apple.

Your correspondent seems to be obsessed with ice. The easiest way to make the chocolate flowers etc would be to pour the chocolate onto silicon baking parchment or teflon baking sheet liners.

I do take the point that the blog needs some new entries though!

Steve said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sky said...

Well, well!! Talking about food seems to have worked! Welcome back!! :)

In fairness to the guy who described the ice-ball method (a professional chef btw) he *does* work in the Australian Northern Territories where temperatures in winter are higher than London in summer... so perhaps has a valid excuse for preferring to use the ice! Even in Sydney we rarely see Toffee Apples on sale! :)

On the other hand of course you're quite right... using a metal bowl (even if it needs to be put in the freezer to cool it sufficiently for our climate) would be far easier and save having to keep several different sized balls permanently frozen ready for use!

No doubt Max will come up with some rationale for using the ice-ball (other than the heat over here), but if I ever feel the urge to make one of these things... which I seriously doubt... I'd try your method first!! It sounds *much* easier!!

(btw: will visit the other blog later!)