Sunday, 9 November 2014

out of the kitchen, up on the mountains

A few weeks ago my boyfriend and I took advantage of the unseasonably warm September to visit the Brecon Beacons. When I was a teenager my Mum got really into mountain climbing for some strange reason, so more than a few weekends me and my equally uncooperative brother found ourselves dragged up some big slope or another. I'd always moan about going; I hated the boring drive there and all I really wanted to do was stay home and faff about on the internet (some things don't change), but once we were actually climbing the views and the air and the great big vastness of it all would have the inevitable effect. I'd be happy. And then when I left for university I found myself longing for the hills, for the sky, for the undeniable happiness that only a mountain can really provide. So when I'd come home for a week or whatever the tables would turn, and it was all of a sudden me dragging the family. So mountain climbing has been a great love of mine for many years, and the Brecon Beacon mountains in South Wales' heart hold a very dear place in mine.

Some time ago on tumblr I came across this quote: "What do you come to the mountain with? What do you leave behind the top?", and I remember it each time I begin an ascent. I don't know where it's from; a quick tumblr search reveals the attribution as "Rakishi to Georgia, in these last notes, 1968", but I don't really know what that means and it seems that google doesn't either - so if any of you can enlighten me, please do. But wherever it's from it's stayed with me, because I do think (however cliche it is) you take things with you when you go to wild places, because they are now so few and far between. So you can take things there that you can't always take everywhere else, and the exertion and sweat and pain of the climb provides a catharsis which finds release in that staggering view from the top. I love being at the top - I love the space, I love the emptiness, I love the great big sky and the great big clouds and all of the great big green. You're so far from everything, you're so high up above it all, and you can leave things there so you travel back down somehow unburdened, somehow lighter, somehow a little less heavy than you were before.

Olly and I climbed up Pen y Fan, which is the biggest of the Brecon Beacons, around 3pm in the afternoon - so the light was starting to die, and there were hardly any other souls around (except sheep). On the way back down he said "stop", so I did, and asked why. "It's so quiet," he said, and it was. It was so, so quiet.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

apple & blackberry crumble

I work in marketing now, which is not a thing that I've ever told you guys before, and so tonight I went to a talk on social media marketing. Lots of people swearing to show how chill they are, people in jeans and suit jackets, etc - all very trendy, very cool, very soshul medya. The whole point of it (I think) was that the best thing about social media is how timely it is, and how if you really wanna excel at social media marketing you've got to really engage with things as they happen. There's no point joining in with an ice bucket challenge once it's over, after all.

This post, sadly, is a demonstration of the exact opposite. Blackberry season is, as I'm sure you're aware, pretty much over by now - September seems to be the month for them these days, and September is the month that I picked these blackberries and cooked them into this crumble. I've had the photos sitting on my flickr account for many weeks now, so I can only apologise for not sharing this sooner, but better late than never right? And this is way too good to waste. Plus - some of you may have been very intelligent souls and actually frozen your blackberries (something my Nan always tells me to do and which I always forget), or you might be even more intelligent and have worked out that you can totally just buy them in shops. Which I heartily encourage you to do, because a good blackberry and apple crumble is a thing of classic beauty - in blackberry season and beyond.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

classic fruit scones

On the increasingly rare, infrequent, once-in-a-blue-moon situations that I sit down to write a blog post, I always just want to talk about the weather. This is a post about scones - about classic, timeless, sweet soft fruit scones, but how do I want to begin? Well, I want to tell you that it's raining. I'm sitting in my white IKEA chair in the landing whilst the kittens at my feet wage a vicious war against my toes and my boyfriend swears at the football, and the rain is pouring enthusiastically against the window beside me. I think I want to tell you this, reader, because the weather outside and the food I want to eat have always inevitably related. I can't picture a hot summers day without a picnic of bread and cheese and grapes, just like I can't picture an autumnal night in October without baked potatoes and chilli. The idea of toffee apples in May is abhorrent to me; almost as weird as the thought of a quinoa salad at Christmas.

But scones are a kind of weather-resistant food; which makes sense since they're so traditionally English, and you certainly can't count on the weather in England to be traditional. So a scone (like a true Englishman) is an adaptable thing, just as suited to a warm summers day in Devonshire as it is to this rainy Sunday afternoon in Cheltenham. And the recipe is adaptable too - add cinnamon and cloves for a festive twist, chunks of pear and ginger if you wanna make my best friend Rosa happy, or dark chocolate & cherries if you're feeling like one sophisticated grown-ass woman. But, that said, you can get never go wrong with the classic combination of glazed egg and mixed fruit. Whatever your combination, a good scone demands three non-negotiable extras: clotted cream; raspberry jam; and tea.

And of course if you manage to enjoy them with a kitten in the vicinity too, then that's a pretty good Sunday indeed.