Thursday, 28 April 2011

Blueberry Macaroon Things

I haven't done too much baking recently. I feel like I should probably prioritise sorting out 3 meals a day for me and the now-eating-solids-babe over cake, and that is quite enough work and kitchen mess most days.

However, this caught my eye and I happened to have just about the right ingredients and the baby was happily eating dirt off the floor or headbutting chair legs or something, so I seized the opportunity.

It's a bit of a Chinese whispers recipe now - originally from 101 Cookbooks' Heidi's new book, I saw a reinterpretation of it on Smitten Kitchen, then I've adapted it further to fit the contents of my kitchen.

Easy as 1-2-3 - check. Tastes like a kiss in the summer sun - check. Rustically pretty - check. My kind of cake/tart/thing.

I actually think blackberries or raspberries - something slightly tarter - would be better than the blueberries I went with, but otherwise I was pretty happy with this

Blueberry Macaroon Tart (adapted from Heidi Swanson)

Preheat oven to 180C/350F

Mix 1 cup wholemeal flour with 1/3 cup sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon and a generous pinch of salt.

Add 4tbsp (c.4oz) of butter, melted, and mix thoroughly.

Press mix firmly into base of a greased 7" square pan or equivalent and cook for c20 mins or until slightly golden/starting to brown.

Let the base cool slightly whilst you prepare the topping

Mix 2 egg whites with 1 cup desiccated coconut and 1/4 cup sugar

Scatter a cup of berries (blue/black/raspberries/whatever) over the base then use your fingers to drop the macaroon mixture around them so they are not all completely covered.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the macaroon peaks are browning.

Scatter with 1/4 cup chopped almonds (or other nuts).

Cut into bars once cooled a little

Friday, 15 April 2011

Something I saw in the park the other day

I was trying to think up a smarter title for this post, but I am going to use my standard excuse de jour for that; that my brain is in hibernation right now. I don't know what I'm functioning on instead in its absence; some kind of standby generator for when the mains power blows I guess. Or a temp brain from an agency, who is more interested in checking facebook and painting its nails than actually doing the work of keeping up the impression I am a sentient, intelligent human being...

Right, moving swiftly on from the dodgy mixed metaphors to what I was actually sitting down to write about today...

It was just this. I was in the park, feeding baby some satsuma. Some older toddling children were running around on the slides and swings. Sun in the sky, but a bit of a chill. Mothers or carers hovered and chattered.

A tall, lean woman, sporting ankle-cropped trousers and battered desert boots, entered the gardens, buggy in tow. She unstrapped a baby similar size to mine, talked a little German to it, took it several metres away and plonked it down on the grass. Then she returned to the buggy, sat in it and tilted her face to the sun, looked quite marvellously relaxed.

German baby happily tested out her legs, moving from sitting to a legs-straight all-fours position, pulled at the grass, toddled over to the play area, experimented with standing, popping up like a mini weightlifter from squatting to upright, then back down again.

German granny (for so she was; she said her granddaughter was 10 months when we exchanged the customary 'how old is yours' baby small talk) dived in occasionally, when baby was about to crawl under a swinging seesaw, and dispensed affectionate cuddles, but mostly just left her to it and chilled out.

Later we were in the library over the road and granny got on with her stuff on the PC for half an hour or so, whilst baby sat first on the mat and then burbling away in her pram facing the baby area - no line of sight between the two.

Nothing particularly extraordinary in all that, you think... and I guess you'd be right. But it really struck me, because in the circles that I move, I've rarely if ever seen such laissez-faire, laid back parenting.

Oh, I've heard earnest discussions of the importance of letting babies play by themselves (usually supported with reference to some book or guru or website or other), and I've seen childminders chatting whilst their charges tear around the stay and play, but somehow this seemed entirely different.

I think it was the complete absence of tension or hurry. In contrast to the hovering, monitoring, multi-tasking, frowning, chiding, chatting, encouraging mothers/carers that I normally see.

And it made me think maybe I could be more like that. And then that made me think that how I am now is so heavily determined by what I see around me, whether consciously or subconsciously, though I might like to think I just do what I think is best regardless of what others think or do. That was all.

* I guess it could be that I move in first-born only circles and there's a bit of 'pfb syndrome' going on. How ironic that probably the only child with which you will get the luxury of being a bit more relaxed is the one that you will probably be most neurotic about! ** BTW I in no way mean this to be an opinionated/ideological piece, oh children today are so mollycoddled that's the reason civilisation is taking a nosedive, that kind of thing. Purely observational.