28 Jul 2015

Let's all appreciate the tastiness of an avocado

Shall we learn the art of cutting an avocado? Go on then, sounds like fun. Mary; we're heading back to the kitchen. Mary! MARY! There you are! Come on, you're going to teach my how to cut an avocado. Why? Because they're yummy and I've only recently discovered my love for them but I've no idea how to chop em up in a quick and mess-free way. So let's go.

Run a knife through the avocado, round the edge of the centre stone. Twist the two halves to break apart.

Strike the stone with the knife to get it out. Was a bit dubious of Mary on this one but it's a mess-free way of getting the stone out quick and easy.

Slide a spatula round the edge of the 'flesh' (do we have to call it flesh? It creeps me out...) to remove the skin.

Lovely stuff!

Like mozzarella and tomato salads (you should)? Throw in some avocado as well!

Chop up your tomato and mozzarella as well.

Layer up, drizzle with oil and sprinkle with pepper.

Dollop on some basil pesto - be generous!

Hey-pesto! Perfect packed-lunch.

Kate's learning corner

Lemon juice stops an avocado from discolouring, and adds to the taste of the salad!

27 Jul 2015

Little Gems: 5

It's been a rough week but it's now time for holiday! Starbucks Red Berry Yoghurt Frappuccino accompanying me on my travels. 

1) This week has been a hectic one at work, and to make matters worse, I've been ill (my friend at work renamed this week grumpy bitch week... I am all for making this a hashtag). So my week has pretty much been late in the office and straight to bed when I've crawled home. Long days in the office always involve random internet browsing moments so here's a few of my favourite discoveries from this week starting with this guy, who lived in a tent for ten months! Maybe this is the answer to the housing problems amongst my generation...

2) HELLO James Bond trailer *momentarily forget I'm ill*.

3) Never thought I'd see the day where I'd be going to work whilst ill because I have 'too much to do'... Need empowering feels... oh here we go.

4) Oh gawwwwd, I think I've overdosed on day nurse... oooo HAIR....

5) Can you die from a cold? Because this must be what's happening to me right now... mmmm pudding.

6) And then I perked up... still not 100% but enough to actually do more than work and sleep... so Friday night, my boyfriend and I were in a bar by half 4. There was wine, sweet potato fries and lots of laughter.

7) I went to my first BBQ of the year on Saturday. Considering it's the end of July, this is pretty shameful but yay for old friends, couscous and fruit ciders.

8) I imagine this blog post could be interpreted many ways but I just think it's absolutely beautiful and, in my interpretation, dead on the money. I've read it every day for the past week.

9) Will you please go listen to the Bear's Den album? It's too.damn.good.


26 Jul 2015

What the hell is that?

"What the hell is that?!"

It's half ten at night on a Tuesday and I'm just thinking about going to bed. Curious, I wander into the living room where my sister, C, and her best friend, T, are settling down for the night with a cheap bottle of vodka... oh to be 19 again.

"What the hell is what?" I ask.

They're both leaning over and staring at the gap between the sofa and the wall, with mildly horrified expressions. I join them, trying to get a better look at whatever it is they're looking at. My horrified expression mirrors theirs.

"What the... What is that?!"

"It's massive!"

"It's like a beetle but bigger and... less-beetle-like."

"I'm going to get a glass," C says.

"And paper?" I ask, keeping one eye trained on the enormous beetle-like-thing.

"No, just a glass. We can deal with it in the morning."

"What, are you kidding?" I say, "hoover the thing up!"

"You hoover it up!"

"Excuse me, I have work in the morning and am going to bed. This is your problem."

"Then I'm getting a glass."

And she heads to the kitchen.

I shake my head. "Fine, have a good night."

I'm just out the living room when I hear T shout.

"Oh my god, is that a spider?!"

I laugh slightly and turn back. "I think we've established that it's definitely some kind of beetle.... Oh, no, shit that's a spider!"

"C, there's also a spider!" T shouts.

It's like bloody grand central BUG station round here. Or whatever the phrase is.

C's back with two glasses.

"You're definitely going to need the hoover now." I say as I put considerable distance between myself and the spider.

"It'll be fine," she says, placing the glasses on top of each bug and jumping back quickly.

"Don't be ridiculous," I say, now pressing myself against the living room wall. "You can't just sit surrounded by a load of bugs under glasses."

Creepiest art feature ever.

"Yeah, I reckon we should hoover them," T joins me by the wall.

"But, if you hoover them up, the spiders just crawl back out."

There's a pause where both T and I stare at her.

"Where on earth did you hear that?" I ask, incredulously.

"A friend told me."

"Oh don't be ridiculous," I say, half laughing and half panicking. That's not true... right?? "Have you ever seen a spider just casually popping back out of the hoover like 'hey guys, just kidding!'"

And I leave the room to go get the hoover.

"Here you go," I say to my sister a moment later.

C looks at me and folds her arms. "Er, why do I have to do it?!"

"Because, you're less scared of spiders than me and T are..."

"And," pipes in T, "we both have to go to work tomorrow and you don't sooooo...."

"Excellent point," I say, joining her back by the wall.

"Oh screw you guys," mutters C whilst attempting to pull the extension tube out the hoover.

"What are you doing?" I ask. "Don't use that, just do it normally!"

"I want to do it with the tube! It's better and..." She pauses and looks down at our new hoover. "How the hell does this thing work?"

"Oh for crying out loud!" I cry, marching over.

It was time for executive action.

"You pick the glasses up and I'll hoover them," I order her in a military like style. She nods and positions herself by our new creepy art feature as I turn the hoover on. The sound heightens the tension.

"One... two.... three!"

She lifts and I push the hoover across before the spider or bug have time to think. Soz guys.

It's over in a second.

"Right," I say, turning the hoover off, "I'm going to bed. You can put the hoover away."

I get to the top of the stairs before...

"Holy shit, the bug survived!!"

I call down. "Is the spider still gone?"

"Yeah," they call back, "But the bug is definitely still here. How the hell did it survive that?!"

"Have a good night!"

I close my bedroom door firmly behind me.

20 Jul 2015

Lemon Drizzle Traybake

Well, I gave it my best shot but I'm not sure I'd count this as successful as my mac 'n' cheese or tagliatelle. Just putting that out there now. I thought, after a couple of savoury recipes, it was time to give a bit of baking a go. So putting my faith in Mary once again, this time I went for her Lemon Drizzle Traybake.

Mary recommends you use a certain size 'traybake tin'. Problem is, I don't know what a 'traybake tin' is. Surely I can just use one of the baking tins in the cupboard? Maybe that is a 'traybake' tin? I fish out an old tape measure and the size fits (30x23cm)... I go with it.

For Mary's Lemon Drizzle Traybake, you will need: 

225g butter
225g caster sugar
275g self raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 large eggs
4 tablespoons milk
2 lemons
175g granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Even I can manage that.

Mary then talks about greasing the traybake tin and lining with baking parchment. Unfortunately, I didn't read the actual instructions too carefully when I was shopping for ingredients, and I'm not sure there's baking parchment in the house. What even is baking parchement? Is that just the same as greaseproof paper? I have a hunt around anyway and come across something.

I ring my sister, who is over four years younger than me and did actually make the effort to learn to cook.

"What," I proclaim, "is this?"

She rolls her eyes. I can't see her but I know she does.
"It's like greaseproof paper, only you can wash it afterwards and use again."
"Oooo... wait, is greaseproof paper the same as baking parchment?"
"Probably. You realise I'm trying to watch Hannibal here?"
Never interrupt my sister when she's watching a good looking guy eat people. That sentence is beyond weird, but also true.

Guess we're just going with the don't-throw-away-greaseproof-paper then.

Zest and juice the lemons.

Whack the butter, caster sugar, flour, baking powder, eggs, milk, and lemon zest into a bowl.

Beat that shiz up, until smooth.

Taste some. Seriously, it's yummy.

Pour the mixture into the lined tin (wash-instead-of-throw-away-greaseproof-paper being put into use here).

Smooth it out with a spatula.

Pop in the oven and bake for 30-45 minutes.

Whilst that's doing its stuff, mix the lemon juice and granulated sugar together to make the glaze (that shiny, sugary stuff that goes on top)

Mary says to bake the traybake for 35-40 minutes, or until risen and springy to touch. I follow these instructions loyally but when I take mine out, it's my first indication that my traybake is not going to look like Mary's. For starters, it's not flat. It has risen very well in the middle, which creates a mountain-like scenario. It's also browner than Mary's light and lemony looking photo. Huh.

I pursue ahead anyway, spooning over the glaze as Mary instructs. Unfortunately, that mountain like scenario starts to create a bit of a problem. A lot of a problem. Oh my christ, it's like lemon drizzle lava pouring down the side of a lemon cake volcano! Lemon drizzle everywhere, TAKE COVER.

Ahem. Sorry.

Cake is covered in the glaze... kind of. So I leave to cool for a few minutes and, once it has, I cut it into 16 rectangular slices.

Done. I'm not feeling particularly impressed though. I gaze longingly at Mary's beautiful picture of her lemon traybake... and then back at my own.

I try and it tastes very nice which does improve my mood. I inform my sister of my disappointment as I munch.

"Looks nice to me" she says, after inspecting the picture (Hannibal has finished).
"Does it taste nice?"
"Well then, what's the problem?"
"It doesn't look anything like the picture"
She laughs. "Welcome to the world of cooking babe."

Kate's learning corner

This, apparently, is a Mary Berry traybake tin...

So what is the difference between baking parchment and greaseproof paper? 

I'm still not 100% sure if I'm honest. I've read through various internet discussions and there seems to be a general consensus that baking parchment is better for not sticking. Some people also suggest that greaseproof paper can be used for food storage, not just cooking. None of this really answers my question though...

Don't skimp on the glaze. 

It depends what you want I guess, but I had quite a bit left over because I felt like I'd already put plenty on. However, when the traybake had cooled, it was obvious that there could have been more and I think I'd have preferred a thicker glaze in general. Something for the future.

It's not going to look like the picture. 

I feel this is something we all have to learn when it comes to cooking, like a right of passage...

19 Jul 2015

Little Gems: 4

The Luna Cinema, Brockwell Lido 

Song - Above The Clouds Of Pompeii - Bear's Den. How freakin gorgeous is this song?!

1) One week until I go on holiday! Good job too; my tiredness is slowly turning me into a walking zombie. Just five more days of work to get through before a beautiful ten days off.

2) On a bad day, thank god for the beauty that is Benedict Cumberbatch.

3) If you live in/travel into London, you really need to be taking advantage of all the quirky cinemas they've got going on. This week, my boyfriend and I went to The Luna Cinema, taking place in an outdoor swimming pool. We got ourselves settled with cushions, backrests and blankets on one side of the pool, with the screen on the other side, and watched a 40-year-old film right next a substantial amount of water. With all the light reflecting on all that water, it was very pretty. Not so pretty when the film started playing. Just a note for the future, 40-years-old or not, Jaws is still scary when you're sat right next to a load of water...

4) I'm getting into the swing of this cooking and exploring new food thing now and have been going crazy looking up recipes I want to try. The list gets bigger everyday and I hope to share them all with you. Just tell me, how good does this chocolate orange marble cake look?! Cannot wait to try it.

5) Saturday night was gig night and we saw Belle and Sebastian live at Somerset House. Quite frankly, it doesn't matter who you go and see, a gig at Somerset House should definitely be on your bucket list.

6) One of my very best friends from university buggered off to Australia eight months ago with no clear indication of when she would next be home. Needless to say, this makes regular reunions a little harder. But she came back for a whirlwind visit to the UK recently before jetting off on her next adventure, and I spent a happy, happy 24 hours with her and our other gorgeous uni pal this weekend.

7) Lazy Sundays are just the best. You should make time for them once in a while. And I don't mean lazy Sundays where you do your washing because, as far as I'm concerned, that doesn't count as relaxing. Meander through the day; sleep lots, plan stuff from bed, go for a pub lunch, repeat.

8) If you love summer (who doesn't?! Actually my sister doesn't... she's weird.) and words (professional word-lover right here), then you shall enjoy these literary quotes about summer. 

9) Speaking of summer, how beautiful is the sky during these hot months? It's all pink and purples and reds and blues and oh my god do I love it.

10) MacDonald's banana milkshakes. I just love their bananary goodness. Except, they're probably full of badness. I wonder if they've even been near a banana... but then I don't care.

14 Jul 2015

Tomato tagliatelle

If a cheese sauce is a must-know for cooks, than surely a tomato one is as well? I mean, tomato sauces crop up everywhere in some shape or form (in cooking that is, I'm not suggesting you're about to bump into a tomato sauce on the tube), so it's got to be one of the essentials. This was my logic for my next cooking venture anyhoo. Mary and I are back in the kitchen and it's time to try some tagliatelle with, you guessed it, tomato sauce. This time, I'm also cooking for my Mum, so there's slightly more pressure to not bugger it up. I'd also like to avoid burning myself this time around.

So here were go. 

For tagliatelle and tomato sauce, you will need (serves 3-4): 
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes 
2 teaspoons caster sugar
1 teaspoon thyme (Mary says fresh, but dry seemed to work well)
1 bay leaf 
500g tagliatelle 
fresh basil leaves
cheese (Mary says Parmesan but it's a personal choice) 
salt and pepper 

Heat the oil in a pan until hot. Add the onion and cook over low heat until soft. 

Add the tomatoes, sugar, thyme, bay leaf, salt and pepper to the pan and stir well. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. 

This has all been relatively simple so far... no burns as of yet... 

After 30 minutes, remove the bay leaf and keep the sauce hot over a low heat whilst cooking the tagliatelle according to packet instructions. 

Drain the tagliatelle and pour over the tomato sauce. 


Serve up with grated cheese and fresh basil leaves on top.

Simples! And tasty! Even Mum agreed. 

Kate's learning corner
Where I share what I've learnt from each recipe. This isn't just for fun ya know! 

The bay leaf. 

This was a slight source of mystery to me. I didn't quite understand why I was supposed to drop in a random leaf and then take it out again half an hour later. What kind of witchcraft does that leaf get up to in my tomato sauce (behave)?! I very nearly didn't include it here (I couldn't find any in Sainsbury's local) until I discovered a pack in my mother's herb drawer (yes she has a whole drawer). However, this meant I did do a bit of research on these suspicious bay leaves, just to double check they weren't essential. What I gathered is that they're not. For example, this tagliatelle would probably have been absolutely fine without. However, the bay leaf adds a subtle flavouring. It's never going to be the star player of the recipe, just as a bit of black pepper isn't, but that doesn't mean it won't contribute to the all round tastiness. Considering how simple this dish is to make (even for me), it's very tasty and I'm in no doubt that the bay leaf contributed to that. Next time a recipe tells me to include one, I shan't considered ignoring the advice. Thanks internet!

Don't skimp on the green stuff.

Whenever my Mum used to randomly throw green leaves on food, I would always have a subtle teenaged strop (it's okay, I actually was a teenager, I don't still do this). I didn't get it and would have to force the green stuff down my throat. But now, particularly since making this recipe, I'm learning to appreciate the extra flavour those little green leaves bring to the dish. The basil leaves are a very important part of this recipe, the final taste wouldn't be half as good without them. Make sure you get plenty in!  

12 Jul 2015

Little gems: 3

Kick-starting the weekend with a home made mango smoothie.

Little things that have made me smile in recent days:

Song - What kind of man - Florence and The Machine. Looooving the new Florence album.

1) I recently purchased a 'Blend and Go' smoothie blender in a moment of reckless online shopping; but I'm so glad I did. It's been smoothies for breakfast every day since it arrived and I'm having a lot of fun trying out new recipes. More to follow...

2) Catch ups with old friends. My friend Lotte and I, and her enormous dog Koda, spent a lovely summers evening curled up in her summer house with a whole array of goodies (cupcakes, scones, flapjacks and pimms), where we kept chatting long after darkness fell.

3) Coming home after a late one at work and sinking into a very hot bath filled to the brim with bubbles. So worth the sunburnt prune look that follows.

4) London is a great place for suddenly coming across hidden gems. I travel into St Pancras station every day but little did I know that tucked behind it is a great place to sit by a canal, with, hello, fountains AND a bookshop ON A BOAT. That's right.

5) Have you seen the new Doctor Who trailer???

6) I'll give you approximately five seconds to absorb that excitement before I ask: have you seen the new Sherlock clip??? *jumps around like a five year old at Christmas*

7) I'm two episodes into the first season of House of Cards (I know, late to the party) and I'm very much enjoying it. Can feel a new addiction coming on...

8) Weekend to myself. It's very rare these days that I get a whole weekend to myself. Not that that's a bad thing but sometimes it's nice to have a bit of me time. I had a clear out, did some baking (I'll share soon) and lay in the sun reading my book.

9) Imaginary book shopping... Whilst I may not have the money to buy eight million books a week, it's fun to imagine I can. My Amazon wish list currently has 57 items on it... all books. Siiiiigh.

10) Sunday evening was film time and I was introduced to the film 'Pride' which, without a doubt, was the best film I have seen in a long time. Go watch!

After the Crash - Michel Bussi

There's something about the summer, with its clear blue skies and hot air, that goes so well with a hardback thriller. Throughout the summer months, these chunky, gripping books always sit alongside my sunglasses and ice cream. 

It was my (slightly weird) fascination with plane crashes that made me pick this up whilst meandering around Waterstones (which I tend to do a lot of). I'm not a big fan of flying which seems to mean I'm naturally drawn to seeking out news stories/books/films about plane disasters, reading them with a horrified fascination and increasing my fear of getting on a plane. Somewhere, a psychologist is having a field day. 

After the Crash starts with a dramatic plane crash (given the title, I'd have been disappointed if it didn't). You briefly get a sense of the passengers on board before the plane plunges into some snowy-topped mountains and explodes into a ball of flames. 

Flash forward 18 years and we meet Cr├ędule Grand-Duc, a private detective who is just about to commit suicide, having failed an investigation that started with that plane crash. In front of him is the original newspaper article, and we learn that one person survived the flames; a 3-month-old baby girl. As it turns out, there were two baby girls on that flight and, in a time before DNA testing, when two families step up to claim her, an 18 year long mystery begins. Is she Lyse-Rose or Emilie? 

Whilst I was immediately drawn in to this novel, I was originally slightly sceptical. The author takes a while to mention that this is supposed to be set before DNA testing was available so I did spend a fair few chapters simply going 'erm, test the DNA?!' However, once I suspended my disbelief, I found myself turning the pages as fast as I could so I could know the answer. The novel flashes between past and present and you witness how the courts settle the question of the baby's identity without a definite answer and how the uncertainty plagues both families for many years to come. So much so, that on Lyse-Rose/Emilie's 18th birthday, several people are still looking for the truth and this kickstarts a race across France which culminates in several big twists.  

If you're looking for a summer thriller, I'd add this to your list. 

11 Jul 2015

Mac, cheese, tomatoes

So after my recent decision to teach myself how to cook, and purchasing Mary Berry's Cookery Course as a result, it's time to embark on my first cooking adventure. I settle on Mary's Macaroni Cheese with Cherry Tomato Topping. I figure that a cheese sauce is one of the basics you need to know if you want to say the statement 'I can cook' with any degree of confidence. Plus mac 'n' cheese is an all time favourite of mine (pasta, cheese... what's not to like?) and I'm intrigued by the cherry tomato topping, something I've never come across before.

So, let's begin. I'm standing in my mother's kitchen so luckily I don't need to worry about cooking equipment or the majority of the ingredients, meaning I can crack on immediately.

For Mary's mac 'n' cheese, you will need (serves 3-4): 
30g butter
200g macaroni
30g plain flour
600ml milk
175g mature Chedder cheese, grated (Mary uses 160g chedder and 60g Parmesan but our fridge was lacking in Parmesan on the day in question)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Cook the macaroni in a pan of boiling water for about 10 minutes (or according to packet instructions). Drain well and set aside.

So far, so good.

Melt the butter in a large pan.

Yep, all good. Everything going well so far. Can totally do this.

Sprinkle in the flour and cook, stirring for 1-2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and gradually stir in the milk. Return to the heat, bring to the boil, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens. Lower the heat and simmer for about 4-5 minutes, stirring often, until the sauce is thick and smooth.

Okay, what?! There was a lot of on-heat-off-heat going on there Mary m'dear. And I'm confused as to when and what I'm supposed to be stirring. I go back, re-read each sentence and try and follow each instruction carefully. However, at the end of that 4-5 minutes, my sauce is neither thick nor smooth. In fact, there appear to be weird lumps floating it... Is this normal? I look around for help but I'm in an empty house with nothing but Mary's smiling face for company. I give the sauce a vigorous stir. Damn! Boiling hot milk splashed onto my hand. Ow ow ow! More ow. Oh god, I can't even cook a cheese sauce. Talk about embarrassing.

Refusing to be deterred, I do a bit more (gentle) stirring (whilst attempting to run the burns under some water) until some of the lumps seem to disappear and accept that that will just have to do.

Remove the sauce from the heat. Stir in the cheese (save some for the top), mustard and season with salt and pepper.

Whack in the macaroni.

Spoon it all into a baking dish.

It looks like macaroni cheese! Feeling hopeful, despite the lump/burning incident...

Scatter over the halved cherry tomatoes and reserved cheese. Add extra pepper if you so wish.

 Bake for about 15-20 minutes, until golden and bubbling.

 *Holds breath and doubts skills for 20 minutes*.

TA-DAH!! Is this, can I say it, a success?! Still slightly worried about those lumps but it looks like Mary's picture... Only one way to find out...

 If I do say so myself, this is very tasty *feels momentarily smug*. As a huge traditional mac 'n' cheese fan, I'm normally very suspicious about adding extras, but the cherry tomatoes add a real zing to the flavour. I am definitely going back for seconds, and definitely making this again... which must mean my first venture is a success? Am practically a culinary genius. Apart from the burns.

6 Jul 2015

Little gems: 2

Using snapchat and instagram to express my horror at the temperature on an un-airconditioned commuter train during a heatwave

Little things that have made me smile in recent days: 

Song: 'Weary Eyes' - Augustines. Several people promised me that Augustines would be right up my street and they were right. I'm seeing them live in August and I cannot wait to see them play this song. 

1) Oh myyyyyyy it is HOT. I will admit, I did do a little bit of complaining during the 'heatwave' (does two days count as a heatwave?). I know there are all those people out there insisting that us Brits shouldn't be complaining about the glorious weather but these were the people sunning in their back garden, frolicking on the beach, gliding through a swimming pool... you get the gist. The rest of us shmucks had to go to work. And let me tell you, 36 degrees on an un-airconditioned, delayed thameslink train... you'd complain too. Still, blue skies and pure sun always puts me in a good mood. And the hilarity of scrolling through the headlines and watch as the country FREAKS OUT over the heat could keep me entertained for hours.

2) When it got to Saturday, my complaining immediately stopped. The temperature dropped back down to twenty-something but that was still plenty warm enough for a day out to the beach where we sat on the front of the harbour eating a 99 ice cream which actually cost 99p!

3) Speaking of ice cream, have you tried the new Raspberry magnums yet? Best. Thing. Ever.

4) Whilst we're on the theme of food-in-the-sunshine, I do love British holiday food. Spent a few days in Devon recently and it was all about the fish 'n' chips, pasties, ice cream and a chilled fruit cider on the beach.

5) The whole planet gained an extra second. A WHOLE SECOND. I hope you used it wisely. The science behind this blows my mind a bit. And it's always fun to see if this screws up our digital systems in some post-apocolyptic type scenario.

6) My aunt dropped in to see us on her way back from France, and brought us the biggest flan you have ever seen in your life. All I’ve eaten all week is flan which, in my mind, can only be a good thing.

8) For the foodies amongst you. Feel free to check out my 'Confessions of a foodie' post here

9) Know what Dubsmash is? Nope, me neither. But Billie Piper, Amanda Abbington, Cara Delevingne and Hugh Jackman can show you... 

10) 20 days until I go on holiday! Not that I'm counting or anything... 

Confessions of a foodie

So, I'm a bit of a foodie. Okay, no, I'm a lot of a foodie. To the point where, if food were a person, I'd have been arrested for harassment and issued a restraining order by now. I spend far too much of my time thinking about food, and definitely far too much time putting the beautiful stuff in my mouth. I'm the kind of person who will research and read restaurant menus in  advance. I scroll through instagram pictures of food, posted by people I don't even know, and I'm that friend who bases the majority of their social plans around eating. I'd be embarrassed but thanks to the glorious internet and a few well-chosen friends, I know I'm not alone.

Unfortunately, the embarrassing fact is; I can't cook. I know I am not alone in this fact either but, given my professional foodie status, this is just unacceptable. I don't quite know how it happened. I suspect my mother's enthusiasm for teaching me coincided with my grumpy teenage phase, where I refused any suggestion she made (sorry Mum). I then got to university and was far too busy with my new independence and fun-filled lifestyle to bother learning. Either way, I appear to have reached my twenties without learning a vital life skill. Don't get me wrong, I'm not totally incompetent. I did manage to survive the three years of university without starving to death so I can boil an egg (sort of) and cook a plate of pasta etc. And whilst, in my opinion, pasta and pesto is one of the best things in this world, you can't live on it forever (believe me, I've tried) and, these days, my foodie taste buds are demanding more from me. So, it's time to give cooking a proper go.    

Naturally before I begin, because this is what I'm like, a fair bit of preparation has to take place. I debate asking my Mum to share her wisdom, which she would happily do, but we both have very busy lives and the likelihood of us ever finding the time is slim to none. I debate an actual cookery course but, really, who has the money? So I decide to teach myself. I can go at my own pace, cook what I want and they'll be room for plenty of experimenting. After scrolling through a few food magazines/websites, I decide to invest in my first ever cook book. Owning your own cook book, rather than browsing the internet for recipes (not that I won't do that as well), feels like a good start to learning how to cook. Plus, well, any excuse to buy a new book. After a little bit of research, I settle on Mary Berry's Cookery Course. For two rather random reasons. First, Mary Berry is the president of my university alumni association and second, my best friend loves her; both of which I see as a good sign. Plus the book is advertised as "a step-by-step masterclass in home cooking" and therefore sounds like it'll suit my current needs. It arrives all shiny and new in the post and I excitedly rip open the Amazon packaging because parcels are exciting, right? I spend a good few minutes browsing (drooling) over the beautiful, glossy food pictures and feeling very inspired. I can do this! Once, I've wiped away the drool, I begin to skim read and and a few phrases jump out at me. For example, "sweat the vegetables". I can totally do... wait, what? Sweat the vegetables? Not only does this sound like some strange euphemism, it doesn't particularly create feelings of hunger. Oh, it does for you? Well, whatever floats your boat. Anyway, it's clear I have a lot to learn. Mary's book is full of pages on kitchen equipment, cooking techniques and a helpful glossary so I feel like I'm in relatively safe hands. Now, just to decide what I'm going to cook first...