So, guess what?
You’re right, I have no way to know if you’re guessing or not, and this is a pointless exercise. But still, guess!
That’s right (she said, hearing your guess through the powers of the internet) – it’s my birthday today! Guess what else? Oh OK, we won’t go through that again – it’s my 30th birthday. I have been rocking around on this planet for 30 years and as I type, I’m swinging between casual acceptance, frank disbelief and what can only be described as stomach clenching panic, at a rather alarming rate.
The casual acceptance part is like ‘Yep, it’s just a number. Plus, life is awesome, and you’re not one of those people who’s set any kind of “life targets” that you now feel like you should scrimmage around and get accomplished in the next twenty minutes. Well done. Let’s party.’
The frank disbelief is like ‘Whaaaaaaaaat? I’m just getting started! It can’t possibly have been 30 years.’
The stomach clenching panic is like ‘DEATH IS COMING.’
So, now you know. Your humble writer is 30 years old on this very day, and as you read this she is probably doing some awesome bouldering. If you’re not familiar with it, bouldering is indoor climbing without ropes or helmets or any of that carry on. The G man and I started doing this in the last couple of months, and even though some weeks I’m really scared of climbing to the top of the walls and/or falling off while I’m doing it (which to be honest I think is probably natural, and I try not to give myself a hard time about it), most of the time I love it, and I feel like a spider monkey. The best parts are where you lose your footing and haul yourself back up with your arms – that makes a person feel BADASS, no doubt about it. I’m already getting people to prod the new muscles in my forearms, which I am disproportionately proud of.
Anyway, that is part of my birthday plan. The whole picture looks like this:
10am or thereabouts: wake up without the aid of an alarm clock and relish being at home, in bed, on a work day.
11am: have a long, leisurely shower. Sing ‘Caledonia’, ‘Livin’ on a Prayer’ and ‘Life on Mars’ at top of lungs. Sing any other songs that pop into head, also at top of lungs.
12 noon – 1pm: climb to the top of walls and jump back down again like bouldering rock star legend.
2pm: arrive at astonishingly awesome parents’ house, where astonishingly awesome siblings will also be arriving forthwith. Drink bourbon. Laugh until face hurts. Eat food that I have had no hand in preparing, and will have no hand in cleaning up after. Possibly play enthusiastic if amateurish guitar and sing at top of lungs some more.
11pm: arrive back at my flat, escorted by ever-patient G man. Watch a film with dinosaurs or aliens in it. Sleep the sleep of the just.
Doesn’t that sound great?
While I’m off doing that, I thought I’d give you some birthday party pictures to peruse. The week before last, I threw a birthday party for my beloved Thursday Sister Miss Pig. We had banners, paper plates, wine and more snacks than you could shake a stick at – the works. I took a whole bunch of photos, and today I’d like to share them all with you – after this big bunch of words at the top of the post, you deserve them.
Things started off very civilised.
I made some exciting things for us to eat. First of all, blue cheese and walnut sandwich cracker guys:
The recipe for these is here – Stilton and Walnut Crackers. I Scottished it up by using Strathdon Blue for the crackers, and the filling was some Skinny Crowdie with a splash of cream, a sprinkling of blue cheese and some minced spring onion. Delicious.
Then, sticking with the cheese theme, I made these Homemade Goldfish Crackers.
I used a sharp Cornish Cruncher cheese for these – this cheese is great just on its own, but adds a mega flavour boost to the crackers. They didn’t turn out as crunchy as goldfish crackers, instead being more puffy and pastry-ish, but they hit the spot. I also make them in heart and flower shapes, because those are the shapes that Miss Pig likes (and because I don’t have a fish shaped cutter, of course).
The last savoury joy was these sourdough grissini, of which I was extraordinarily proud. They earned me a proposal of sorts when I took the leftovers into work – that good. My sourdough starter Louie is still going strong, almost 18 months on. He did me proud.
There are three kinds of breadstick there – sesame seed, poppy seed and salt, pepper, garlic, chili and fennel. Oh yes. Add a bit of humus and you’re golden. You can find the recipe for Sourdough Grissini on YeastSpotting.
I also made some sweet items for us. First up, a batch of brigadeiros, which you can read a blog post about here. The original recipe is here.
They’re fudgy, chocolatey truffles, which are so much lighter than your usual chocolate truffle while still delivering a rich flavour. They’re a little trickier and more time consuming to make than normal truffles, too, but worth the effort. People make a face when they eat these – a GOOD face.
Next I made some little tartlets which I’m struggling to name – they’re somewhere between jam tarts and meringue pies, except the meringue is soft, more like marshmallow. This is because I freestyled it, by whipping up an unspecified amount of egg white with enough sugar to make a glossy meringue that stood up in peaks. I eyeballed it, and then piped it over the baked jam tarts and used my cook’s blowtorch to cook and colour the surface of them. Then I sort of looked away when someone took the first bite out of one in case the marshmalloweringue exploded everywhere, instantly sticking everything in the room to everything else in the room. When there were no cries of alarm I looked back – turns out that they were soft and pillowy but not excessively sticky and definitely not explosive. Phew – bullet dodged.
The other great thing about these is that they represent my first successful attempt at wheat free pastry – are you excited about this? Because I *definitely* am. I’ll blog it properly on my next attempt, but for now suffice to say it was light and crisp and did not crumble into ash in our mouths, which is always the fear when you make wheat free pastry and biscuits. Also I made the tartlets flower-shaped, and I loved the end result. They’re so pretty! The jam was rhubarb and ginger, from a jar (shoosh, I made the pastry, what more do you want? Jam on it? Oh…).
The piece de resistance was these wee pig cupcakes, which were inspired by an idea in the book Cupcakes, Cookies and Pie – Oh My!
Check out the colour difference in those photos. THE LEVELS! MY EYES!
The ears and noses are mini marshmallows – to do the ears you snip some marshmallows diagonally to form those sweet wee triangles, and then you wedge them into the icing. The cakes are Devil’s Food Cake (my go-to chocolate cake recipe) and the icing is a vanilla buttercream, tinted pink. The eyes are reversed chocolate chips, and the smiles are drawn on with an icing pen after the icing has set a little.
I was heard to remark that I thought they looked a bit like I made them at nursery – I still feel that way. It’s not a criticism, necessarily, but they do look like a project you might do with your kids. However, given that I don’t have any of those, I get to do this fun stuff myself. Miss Pig, as her name suggests, likes pigs – when I happened across the pigs idea in that book, it was a no-brainer.
The night progressed in the way that these nights do…
Wine was consumed…
Sparklers were lit…
Things were knocked over…
We laughed, and listened to 80s tunes, and ate until we couldn’t eat any more. We took photographs of all the food with our phones:
It was a simply lovely party. When everyone went home I had a one-woman dance party round my flat until it was really silly late – and when I say dance party, I really mean it. That thing about dancing like nobody’s watching? That.
Looking over these photos and writing this post was an absolute joy – it’s been a long while since I took on a big kitchen project like this, and having everything work out so successfully was reassuring and pleasing in equal measures.
So, while I’m off enjoying my birthday (30? Really??), I hope you’ve enjoyed checking out our birthday party. I can recommend throwing one, complete with paper cups and a disposable tablecloth. You’ll have a great time.
Baking to excess is optional.