Thursday, 16 May 2013

Revenge Is A Dish Best Served Cold - Cheesecake

It’s been a quiet week really, nothing happening out of the norm, nothing that really got my juices flowing I was even considering sparing you the chore of reading this old shite.

I say that, there’ve been the obvious stresses of daily life that for some reason take some comedic series of events for me but hey ho.

There was a child’s birthday party, we all know how much I love those, where I encountered the biggest baby I’ve ever seen. This isn’t an exaggeration and I’m not trying to be mean but this lad was huge a behemoth if you will. He must have been a sextuplet but ate his five siblings as a post breakfast snack. I took a picture but Mrs. Vino said that was going a step too far. I couldn’t stop staring though, like some Curio in a turn of the century Travelling Circus.

Very much like the time I was sunbathing and an attractive woman was by the pool, she only had one leg, I tried so hard not to look as I walked back to our apartment but failed miserably my eyes boring into her and the words “one leg, one leg, one leg” ringing in my brain. What can I say, I don’t get out much, rather I shouldn’t be allowed out much.

Nothing has really got my juices flowing on the TV, yes I know the Apprentice is back on but I don’t watch it.

You’d think it would be right up my street, I mean me and The Sugar have so much in common. Both born into the Jewish faith, backgrounds in sales, a predisposition for grumpiness and both have faces like an old bulldog licking piss off a thistle.

Come to think of it I’ll have to check if Mum made any trips down to London in the 70’s, that rich old bugger could be my Dad and I may be in line for a few quid to not sell my story.

This is of course completely fabricated, more worrying is the fact Mummy Vino was given free tickets to Top of The Pops in her youth by a popular DJ in Leeds and my uncontrollable urge to jangle jewelry, wear tracksuits and smoke cigars. 

11 Years Ago in Vegas

Anyway there’s my usual digression, back to the Apprentice, I can’t watch it. Not because as a twitter friend suggested they remind me of me. Simply put they’re a bunch of cocks (maybe they do remind me of me), I think that’s the collective noun for the contemptible arses that try and ‘win’ the poisoned chalice. There aren’t enough swear words available to me in the English language to be able to watch it and without the naughty words spilling forth from my mouth I fear the anger may bubble up to a level where my head would explode and I would die. Fear of death has to be a good enough reason not to watch surely?

By now you’re probably asking yourselves why I'm wittering on at you? Why the change of heart? What could possibly spark me into picking up my virtual pen?

Only the classes being announced for the W I Open Produce & Handicrafts show taking place in the Village Hall Saturday 14th September 2013. That's bloody what!

If that wasn't enough which it is, there is more. A tale of revenge, retribution, unfinished business, call it what you will.

Let’s just say me and the blue rinsed old dears of the Women’s Institute have got previous!

More of that later.

You may have rightly gathered that Village life is very quiet and uneventful, putting aside the perennial swingers nights, car keys in the middle and all that.

Our Village doesn’t have a pub, this wasn’t a consideration when we were buying I was pretty much tee total at that time, nowadays I’m never more than 3 feet from alcohol at any given time.

There’s no shop, with the phone box being utilised to sell eggs and produce from.

There’s Table Tennis club on a Monday, I’ve already said too much about this, the first rule of table tennis club is….

Think a darker Royston Vasey and you won’t go far wrong, we’ve lived here 8 years and people didn't talk to us for the first 5.

It’s a beautiful place to live, nice and quiet with a lovely park on our doorstep. This does throw up a slight problem for me at this time of year as the cows are back.

Those cud-chewing motherfuckers scare the bejeesus out of me. I’m sure they’ve got it in for me, I’m not being delusional. I think they can smell cow on me, or to put it bluntly, steak. They can sense the amount of meat I’ve consumed in my life and want payback. 

To be honest I don’t even know if they’ve got teeth. How stupid is that? I’m an adult who doesn’t know if cows have teeth. What I do know is that they’re bloody big and every time I set foot in the park they want to kill me.

Yes as Mrs. Vino says I’m a townie at heart and although I try I’m not great at country living, it’s taken me 8 years to succumb to buying a pair of wellies, now the sheep are worried, there’s no escape.

Anyway back to the show, obviously due to the lack of anything going on this is THE biggest event in the village diary.

There are 35 Classes with prizes awarded in each, 1st, 2nd & 3rd, there is an overall Best in Show and a Reserve Best in Show.

These classes are varied and encompass, produce, flower, flower arranging, preserves, baking, handicraft and children’s classes.

The rules within each are very specific and you will be disqualified for not adhering to them. There are also some odd ones, a collection of herbs displayed in an unusual container no larger than 15 inches. I found out last year that having a few sprigs of rosemary hanging out of your arse is frowned upon, only being good enough for 3rd prize.

To say it’s competitive is an understatement, people have committed unspeakable crimes for a 1st prize certificate. One competitor carries a tape measure and reports her fellow competitors to the judges should they contravene any guidelines. My neighbour’s collection of 3 types of vegetables was thrown out because of her grassing him up and he has never entered again.

My issue is two second prizes, second prizes???? You’ve all seen my cakes there is no way they were second prize entries. No the only explanation is that judging is fixed, rigged, bent whatever you want to call it.

Two years running I’ve been beaten by an 80 year old, once in the Victoria Sponge class and the following year in the Gateaux Class. Now I’ll admit refusing to accept my certificate, like it was an MBE I was turning down as a political statement then upturning the baking exhibit table, may have been a slight overreaction but I cannot stand corruption.

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, yes W I judges I’m pointing my finger at you. They’re the rural mafia, think Mary Berry meets Tony Soprano but meaner. It’s ok raising money for charity and all that but deep down I know there lies a dark underbelly.

This year will be different, this year will be my year. Watch this space a first prize certificate will be adorning the walls of Vino’s Kitchen. Even if I have to steal one.

The recipe this week should really be an entry for the show but there’s not a chance I’m sharing this. I know there is a very slim chance that out of the 3 people that read this any of you will be entering the show but I’m not willing to take the risk.

So here’s a favourite recipe of mine, it’s a Hugh Fearnley baked cheesecake with some of the steps removed. It’s amazing, although you can feel your arteries clogging with every mouthful.

New York Cheesecake


For the base
100g butter –15g softened and 85g melted
170g digestive biscuits
1 tbsp caster sugar

Pinch of flaky sea salt
For the filling

200g caster sugar

3 tbsp plain flour

Pinch of flaky sea salt

900g full-fat soft cream cheese, at room temperature

200ml sour cream

2 tsp vanilla extract

3 large eggs, plus 1 yolk


Heat the oven to 190C
Generously grease the base and sides of a 23cm springform cake tin with the soft butter, line the base with baking paper and butter the paper
Wrap the cake tin in several layers of tinfoil – it needs to encase the tin completely, with no holes or gaps, because you're going to cook the cheesecake in a bain-marie and you don't want any water to sneak in at the base and ruin it – I have only once succeeded to stop water getting in once and it hasn’t ruined it. Try a foil and oven proof cling film combo , it may be the only way
Next make the crust
Put the biscuits into a food processor with the sugar and salt
Pulse to fine crumbs
Pour the melted butter through the feed tube and pulse until the mixture looks like wet sand
Press it into the bottom of the cake tin in an even layer (use the bottom of a glass to smooth it out)
Bake for 10-12 minutes until firm, then leave to cool on a wire rack
Reduce the oven temperature to 170c
Whisk together the sugar, flour and salt
In a mixer or a large mixing bowl with a handheld electric mixer, beat the soft cheese until light and fluffy, scraping down the bowl and beaters a couple of times
With the mixer on low, beat in a third of the sugar mixture, then half the sour cream
Repeat, then beat in the last of the sugar mixture
Beat in the vanilla extract
Beat in the eggs one at a time, and the yolk, beating well after each addition, until smooth and creamy
Brush the inside of the cake tin above the biscuit base with more butter and place in a roasting tin
Pour the filling into the cake tin
Put the roasting tin in the oven and pour in boiling water to come halfway up the outside of the cake tin
Bake for an hour and a half to an hour and three-quarters, until just set in the centre
Let the cake cool
Refrigerate overnight
Run a thin-bladed knife around the sides of the tin to loosen any stuck edges, then release the sides of the tin

Carefully slide the cheesecake on to a plate and gently slide the parchment out from underneath – I have never achieved this, I slice the cake and making sure I don’t get the paper



Thursday, 9 May 2013

Bank Holiday Blues - Oreo Brownies

Aren't Bank Holidays brilliant? Are they fuck!

Never have been, picture the scene, a small boy with a really miserable look on his face having his picture taken stood in the pissing down rain next to his mum with Blackpool Pier providing the backdrop.

Then substitute that backdrop for Scarborough, Bridlington or Whitby, pretty much any seaside town within a 2 to 3 hour radius of Leeds.

This my friends is the story of my childhood, those Polaroids still exist as proof.

So this is what I don’t understand, why does a day off work compel families to do something? What's this need we have to be doing something, anything got to do something. Why does convention dictate that you can't spend a bank holiday doing what you want - bugger all?

It'd be great to do nothing wouldn't it? 

Imagine a whole extra day off work where you could actually relax and enjoy. Problem is you then you go in to work the next day and the conversation would probably go along the lines of : -

“What did you do yesterday?”

“Nothing, just stayed at home”

“That was a bit of a waste wasn’t it?”

They'd look at you like you'd just taken a dump on their living room floor.


Is it human nature that forces us to get into a car or onto a bus and travel somewhere to spend a miserable couple of hours with other people who have had the same ridiculous idea?

Just think about it rationally, if someone asked you the following would you do it?

“Darling, how about tomorrow we sit in traffic for four hours, pay a fortune for shit food, have a massive argument on the way there and back and want to kill the kids within 30 minutes of leaving?”

“Sounds great, what time shall we set off?


Of course you bloody wouldn't - but you do.

The Answer is we are all pursuing the Holy Grail of family life, that is - quality time, sharing common interests as a family the whole 'we wanna be together' syndrome. Bloody people on TV and in books giving us advice telling us we’ve got to have it, we can’t survive without it.

Well my interests are going to the football, playing golf and drinking beer. Fit that one into your family time Denise Robertson.

So obviously given my 39 year hatred of Bank Holiday outings we stayed at home this Monday.

Did we buggery. We went on a trip.

Cadbury World this was our day out and all I can say is wow. 

Against my preconception I actually found it interesting, the history, the chocolate making process, manufacturing and marketing etc.

They obviously glossed over the links to the slave trade and the Spanish massacre of the Mexicans to get the cocoa beans in the first place but hey who hasn’t changed the actual facts for a good story? *looks at shoes*

The wow really comes from the amount of chocolate they try and push on you, like some crack dealer trying to get you to try it for the first time.

We had an allocated time of 9:40 so queued up to enter, had our tickets scanned and were immediately furnished with 8 bars “to start with” – to bloody start with? What the hell was I going to finish with? A diabetic coma?

Unsurprisingly the descendants of the Gloop Family, who seemed to be having a reunion there on the same day, had no issues consuming this amount before being presented with more and then more again.

Throw in some liquid chocolate as a taster and then the make your own concoction with jelly babies, biscuit or marshmallow and the result was  500 Mr. Kreosotes waddling around the gift shop buying the obligatory crap. This crap consisted of chocolate bars as big as your head.

Our trip down was actually ok, mainly as I’d had the foresight to break up the journey with a visit and overnight stay at Mrs. Vino’s Aunties.

The trip back however went as expected….

I’m an only child and have never had to share the back seat with anyone, being a short arse as well meant that I’d usually lie out and go to sleep across the full length of the seat. I’ve actually missed entire countries by being asleep.

However put N & M together in a car for 5 minutes and they bicker, 10 minutes and they start to prod and pinch, so taking it to its natural outcome an hour in they’re kicking the crap out of each other.

Now the perceived wisdom when disciplining children is to not threaten anything that you can’t follow through on. 

However I am a massive failure at this. The whole "if you keep doing that I’ll send you to your room routine" just doesn’t cut it for me. Yes I can follow it through but frankly it’s dull.

So here are some of my Top Punishment Threats – frankly you’ll see they’re completely useless but even if I do say so myself they are quite creative :-

1 – Arguing in the car - I’ll make you walk home from here (we were in Birmingham)

2 – Moaning about having a hair wash - I’ll get all your hair shaved off

3 – Arguing in the car – I’ll turn the car around and we’ll go home (we’d driven 3 hours and were 2 minutes from the destination)

4 – Not listening to me – I’ll give you away to another family

5 – Complaining about dinner – I’m going to throw your dinner in the bin and send you to live with the school cook if her food is so much better

Basically without shouting at them I’ve got nothing.

I’ll let you into a little parenting secret, though it may not be the pc approach, it works. Yes there may be a few tears occasionally but it never did me any harm.

The recipe this week had to be something with chocolate, I mean what else could it be.

This is a Lorraine Pascal recipe and although I usually don’t go in for all her baking made easy crap but this works really well.

Oreo Brownies


165g Butter plus extra for greasing

200g Dark Chocolate - grated or finely chopped

3 Eggs

2 Egg Yolks

2 tsp Vanilla Extract

165g Soft Light Brown Sugar

2 tbsp Plain Flour

1 tbsp Cocoa Powder

Pinch of Salt

154g Oreos, broken into quarters – or whatever chocolate biscuits you like

Icing Sugar for dusting


Preheat the oven to 180c

Grease a 20cm Square baking tin with butter, then line with baking paper, the paper overlapping the sides a little

Melt the butter in a pan over a medium heat

When the butter has melted, remove the pan from the heat and add the chocolate

Leave to stand until the chocolate melts and then stir together

Using an electric whisk, whisk the eggs, egg yolks and vanilla together until the eggs begin to get light and fluffy

Add the sugar in two lots, whisking well between each. Try to pour it around the side of the egg mixture as you want to keep as much of the air that has been whisked in as possible

Whisk until the mixture becomes stiffer

Once the egg mixture is ready, pour the chocolate into it - again around
the sides trying to keep the air in

Add the flour, cocoa powder, salt and a third of the biscuits and stir until fully combined

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin

Scatter the remaining biscuits over the top, pressing them in slightly

Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 25–30 minutes. The middle should be very slightly gooey

Leave the brownies to cool in the tin - the top will sink and crack a little

Pull the brownies out using the overlapping paper and cut into squares

Dust with icing sugar



NB – We did make it home unscathed and all talking to each other, we’ve still got 10 bars of chocolate left and I can’t wait until the 27th for the next Bank Holiday, if you see me that day you might as well kick me in the nuts to complete the experience.