Welcome to Night Vale Cake


Act natural. Act like all of nature. Act like the entire cycle of life and death and change and rebirth.

Welcome to Night Vale.

 

If you don’t know about Night Vale (a friendly desert community where the sun is hot, the moon is beautiful, and mysterious lights pass overhead while we all pretend to sleep), that is OK. You can educate yourself at Commonplace Books. There’s a lot to catch up on.

 

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This is the Welcome to Night Vale logo, in cake form. I am really pleased with it! Especially the water tower, which was hand cut from fondant. So were the eye, moon, electricity pole and… what is that down there at the bottom? A secret bunker? A pyramid?

 

I cut a thin rectangle out of the eye so I could lay the electricity pole through it, rather than over it. The details on the cake were mostly at an even height, with two exceptions.

 

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The antenna was drawn on with the broad side of an icing pen, making it flat to the surface of the cake. It was tempting to go over it, trying to get it perfectly straight, but we all know what happens when you footer too much with something like this – it ends up in a big, irreparable mess. Drawing straight on fondant icing is what Bob Ross might have called a bravery test.

 

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The power lines were drawn with the fine end of the same pen, and though you can’t see it too well here, this meant they dug into the fondant, making them lower than any of the other detail. This was, to invoke Bob once more, a happy accident.

 

Even if you don’t immediately go and listen to every back episode of Night Vale (as I would recommend you do), you can follow them on Facebook and Twitter, to get a feel for what the show is like. Insofar as you can ever get a feel for what the show is like. It’s a strange, wonderful, terrible place to visit.

 

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Good night, readers. Good night.

 


Tomato Powder


This isn’t the first time I’ve reduced an unwitting fruit or vegetable to powder. I have form. As long as I’m on the loose, no chili is safe – and now, no tomato, either.

 

I have experimented with oven dried tomatoes before – like sun dried, only you can make them in countries where you don’t get much sun. This time, I went a step further and completely dried out some cherry tomatoes, before making them into powder.

 

STEP ONE: The tomatoes don’t know what’s coming. Quarter them, but don’t slice right through, leaving them slightly connected at the centre. This makes them a little easier to move around, plus looks pretty cool. Sprinkle with salt and, if you like, a little sugar.

 

Innocent Tomatoes

 

 

STEP TWO: Put the tomatoes in a low oven – about 70C – until dried out. I think it took me four hours in the end. They look kind of creepy now.

 

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STEP THREE: Put the now-dry tomatoes in a spice grinder and process as finely as possible. For me, this is where I found that they weren’t as completely dry as I’d have liked. You can tell by the way the powder clumps up in the spice grinder. So, on to…

 

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STEP FOUR: Take the not-quite-powder and spread on a baking sheet again. Put back into oven for half an hour or so, to remove more moisture.

 

STEP FIVE: Spread the powder out on absorbent paper towels, and leave to sit overnight. This will remove yet more moisture and oil from the powder.

 

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You can see where the paper towel has drawn moisture and colour from the tomato powder.

 

 

STEP SIX: After resting over night, return the powder to the spice grinder and process once more. You will find the resulting powder finer and drier. There was still a certain amount of moisture, but I judged it to be acceptable.

 

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Some thoughts on the uses of tomato powder, now that you have some:

  • Flavour popcorn or possibly even homemade Doritos (a challenge I intend to take on).
  • Add to humus or other dips.
  • Thicken sauces – it’s just like a really extreme form of tomato puree, right?
  • Use to give colour to rice dishes.
  • Mix with salt and pepper for a quick seasoning blend.

 

Will all that said, sometimes it’s really more about the process than the end result. Some people like to climb Everest. I like to dehydrate stuff.

 

Mine’s an easier hobby.

 


Spring Chicken Meatballs


This is a meal for when your heart says ‘summer!’ and the weather says ‘no. spring, at best’.

 

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My camera packed in when I was making this. I’m hoping it’s a ‘charge the batteries’ situation rather than a ‘you dropped me too many times’ situation. As a result, the few photos in this post were taken on my phone – not the best, but then again not the worst since we have plenty of lovely daylight right now.

 

I started with chicken breasts, which I reduced to mince with a sturdy knife, a determined attitude and a disregard for loud hammering noises.

 

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I added fresh thyme, lemon juice, lemon zest, spring onion, salt and pepper to the chicken, and mixed thoroughly to this rather appetising homogeneous goop.

 

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Once shaped into meatballs, fried until golden and stacked into a precarious pyramid, they look a little better.

 

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Once I had the meatballs, I had to decide what to do with them. I turned to one of my very favourite recipes, this minestrone soup on Food 52. It’s an easy recipe to do, and even if you freestyle it, it turns out well. Even if you forget to put in the celery that you bought specially to make this soup, it turns out well. Even if you forget to put in the bacon that you defrosted especially to make this soup, it turns out well. Even if you change the recipe almost completely, it turns out well. It’s a good recipe.

 

I put the bacon in once the soup was simmering – threw in two whole slices, made sure they were covered, and let it be. It worked out really well. The celery is still sitting on the kitchen counter. I don’t know what to do with it.

 

For today’s version of the minestrone (this isn’t my first post about the amazing minestrone), I used garlic, carrot and courgette, tinned tomatoes, vegetable bouillon and frozen spinach. Plus afterthought bacon (those two words should never really go together). I skipped the potatoes and chickpeas in favour of  tiny pasta shells and the chicken meatballs. Then I added some dainty pesto quenelles, a splash of balsamic vinegar, and pea shoots to make the whole plate look like a forest bower. Sometimes it’s fun to combine foliage and food.

 

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