Thursday, 20 June 2013

Pie Dreams & Cake

Lemon Butter Cake

Well you could say it’s been an odd couple of weeks but odd doesn’t really do it justice.
No I haven’t encountered extra large babies again leaving me speechless or attended parties at soft play centres which would no doubt have had me turning the air blue.
N’s School Sports day did provide some light relief. It’s a small village school and parents are encouraged to attend and give moral support.
N did well managing to finish in the top 3 in all events. This may have been down in no small part to the fact that there are only 3 girls in her class but who am I to piss on anyone’s bonfire? Don’t answer that.
She did however win the egg and spoon race, so all the hours of training we’d put in weren’t in vain.
In her age race my younger daughter M sprinted to a 30 yard victory over the other nursery children, she’s pretty much a year older and double the size of the rest and as she went on the G of Go the others stood on the start line either crying or filling their nappies.
I looked on proudly, trying not to be one of ‘those’ dads who takes the sporting endeavour of their child a little too seriously, I failed. Apparently booing the other kids and then unfurling the union flag and doing a lap of honour around the cricket pitch with your 4 year old in celebration isn’t the done thing, who knew?
Unfortunately I was cajoled into taking part in the Dad’s race and as I took my place alongside the others, all young skinny bastards, I heard the little voice saying – Don’t fuck up, don’t embarrass your daughters, don’t pull a hamstring, don’t slip another disc. Ok I may be a hypochondriac but it comes with my heritage.
Needless to say riddled with these self-doubts I didn’t win although I did avoid the ignominy of last place beating someone’s grandad. I think a ‘short head’ is the sporting phrase used to describe my margin of ‘victory’ over him. In your face old man!
No my odd couple of weeks actually involves something a little more important.
I’ve resigned from work and am now officially jobless.
Please don’t worry this isn’t some thinly veiled cry for help or a begging blog for you to send money so the family Vino don’t go hungry. It’s safe to read on.
Do people really believe and respond to those emails you receive? You know the ones informing you of inherited cash or asking for help and that the person will pay you back as soon as they’re back on their feet? One hit my inbox a few months ago telling me I’d been left £120k to help me continue my wonderful Evangelical Christian work. I mean I may be a lot of things but a preacher of the good book definitely isn’t one of them.
That said I am quite happy to attach my bank details to the bottom of this blog and if you feel that you’d like to spare a few quid I’m not too proud to accept.
No this was an actual conscious decision to leave a steady job with a good income but that said, a job that left me thoroughly miserable and if I’m being honest it would probably have been easier to live with Saddam in his bunker than me for the past few months.
So on a level of keeping my sanity it was an easy decision to make however on the level of not knowing if I’m going to have to sell the girls to Madonna to pay the mortgage leaves me a little petrified if the truth be told. The main problem with this is I’m not sure the girls are ethnic enough for Madge.
I haven’t quit without a plan for the future. That would be completely bat shit crazy.
I have a dream. Now I’d like to say this is as grand as Martin Luther King Jnr’s dream of a racial equality for all. It’s not.
No mine is the lesser known I have a dream speech, given to various friends and relatives over the last few months, one where I tell people my dream of making Pies and Cakes for a living.
I’d also like to say it was initially as well received as MLK’s speech. It wasn’t.
I am however happy to report that Mrs. Vino is fully behind the venture, it was hard for her to see the job I was doing making me ill. Though I think really she likes the idea of being married to Little Ribston’s very own Alan Sugar, either that or she really loves to eat pie and a lot of it.
So the last few weeks have seen product development in full swing. Pies and cakes are being baked on a daily basis and waistlines are expanding. I’ve also been distributing them to anyone with a mouth that wants it filling for free and funnily enough there are plenty of those around.
I should be able to give you further information and news once the Council fulfills its commitment to process my food application in the timeframe they set. Although if having a very close friend working for the Council is anything to go by I’m not filled with confidence that this will happen and I’m not holding my breath. Not that I’m bashing the Council in any way I’m sure they’re very productive on the days that they do some work.
The sign that will hopefully one day hang over the door

In honour of my prospective venture here’s a lemon butter cake recipe that may adorn my menu in the near future.
It’s from Dan Lepard, yes I know I go on about him a little too much which obviously has nothing to do with him responding to me on twitter but trust me his recipes are really very good.
Lemon Butter Cake
2 Medium Eggs – Separated
150g Caster Sugar
100g Unsalted Butter – Melted
125g Condensed Milk
100ml Lemon Juice
Grated Zest of 2 Large Lemons
275g Plain Flour
2 Tsp Baking Powder
Grated Zest of 1 Large Lemon
100g Icing Sugar
25ml Lemon Juice
Set the oven to 180c
Line a Loaf tin – preferably 19cm long, I used what I had and it was perfectly fine.
Beat the separated egg whites with an electric mixter until they’re frothy and then gradually add 25g of Caster Sugar and whisk to a soft meringue consistency.
In a different bowl beat the egg yolks, remaining caster sugar, melted butter, condensed milk, lemon zest and juice.
I didn’t grate the zest if I’m honest I just I zester and had short strips of the zest – it made no difference.
Sift the flour and baking powder into the mixture and beat until smooth.
Fold the egg whites in to this carefully and quickly as not to lose the air from the mixture.
Spoon into your tin then smooth the mixture out.
Bake for 40 – 50 minutes or until a skewer comes out with only a few crumbs. Mine took just under 40 minutes but then again my oven enjoys cremating things.
Let your cake cool and then ice it.
To make the icing beat the zest, icing sugar and lemon juice in a bowl until smooth and cover the top of the cake. If you don’t let it cool the icing becomes runnier and will come down the sides of the cake as well. I know this from experience.

Follow me on twitter @Vino_73

Friday, 14 June 2013

The Great Leeds Bake Off

This Saturday saw the Family Vino attend the inaugural Great Leeds Bake off to celebrate the Leeds Loves Food festival. Belts were loosened in anticipation and daughter M was ready to run a critical eye and mouth over the entries. Mary Berry has nothing on my 4 year old who will readily critique my efforts, happily telling me they’re too dry or tasteless – of course having already consumed 3 pieces.
The preview said to join us at The Arch Cafe for an afternoon of cake delights, to enjoy eating competition cakes and drinking lots of Yorkshire Tea – two slices or ten slices, eat as much as you like!
I viewed this more as a challenge than a tagline so skipped breakfast and lunch in readiness. In the interests of research I intended to sample as many entries as possible; it wasn’t just gluttony, though the fact I wore elasticated trousers may say differently.
Now I have to confess I didn’t enter, this may come as surprise to those who follow me on Twitter and Instagram and are bored senseless with my seemingly endless cake tweets and photos.
I’d like to be able to give a grand excuse as to my baking absence but I can’t. Plain and simple I bottled it.
Anyone who has read my blog will know my feelings on cake competitions. According to the local W I I’m annually the second best baker in the village, I could say that doesn’t rancor with me but I’m not going to lie to you.
The Arch Cafe is in the Grade 2 listed Bradbury Building, adjacent to St. Johns Church. The building also encompasses the newly refurbished head office of Age UK Leeds who own the cafe, and all the profits go directly to support their work with older people.
The competition itself comprised of 3 categories: -
Leeds Loves Food
Vintage / Retro
The criteria for the competition was that the cakes would be judged primarily on taste and interpretation of the category rather than the aesthetics.
The judges were Clandestine Cake Club founder and cake recipe book author, Lynn Hill, and Masterchef Vivek Singh Kashiwale of the 1875 Restaurant in Menston.
The support shown was fantastic and the organisers wanted me to give special mention to the sponsors who donated fabulous prizes for the winners and for the raffle, namely Clandestine Cake Club, 1875 Restaurant, Hobbycraft, Greggs, Tate and Lyle, and Yorkshire Tea.
In total there were 36 cakes entered across the 3 categories, which I have to say was a great effort and made me feel less guilty for not entering myself.
The entrants were as wide ranging as had been hoped, from 5 year old children upwards. One entrant, Jon Clarke, was even accompanied by a BBC3 camera crew documenting his journey from working at a doughnut shop in the Metro Centre to becoming a baker. This will be broadcast later in the year.
True to their word and the brief the judges sampled each and every entry, revealing they had to taste some twice, just to make sure. I think the phrase Lynn used was sugar rush after judging had finished. There may have been more eye-catching cakes but the winners were indeed chosen for their taste.
Once the winners had been announced we got to dive in and dive we did – headlong into Chocolate, Coffee, Saffron, Raspberry, Beetroot, Carrot ….you name the cake and I’m pretty sure it was there. To be honest I lost count of the number we tried and think N and M would still be there, faces awash with buttercream, had we not dragged them away.
Most of all it was a fun event, with a great spirit of community, for a good cause raising in excess of £500 for Age UK Leeds. Who needs to climb Kilimanjaro to raise money for charity? I’d rather eat cake all day long. As Mrs. Vino commented, there are definitely worse ways to spend a Saturday afternoon.
So well done to all concerned and here’s to next years Great Leeds Bake Off, who knows I may even put my reputation on the line next time.
The Full piece with photos can be found here The Culture Vulture