Fruitcake oatmeal cookies

I was craving cookies.

I knew I had enough ingredients in the cupboard to whip up drop cookies.  I leafed through my cookbooks for inspiration and decided on oatmeal raisin cookies as the recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook was making my tummy growl in anticipation!  I started to get the ingredients together and found a bag with about with still a third of the mixed dried fruit and peel languishing in my baking supplies basket.  So instead of following the recipe in the cookbook, I improvised and put together what I call a cupboard cookie recipe – because you’re basically using ingredients you find in your cupboard!

Ingredients:

  • 135g unsalted butter, room temperature and softened
  • 80g soft brown sugar
  • 80g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 190g plain flour
  • 80g oatmeal (I used wholegrain rolled oats, but quick cooking oats work too)
  • 1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
  • 110g of mixed dried fruit and peel
  • 70g ground almonds, optional

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C
  2. In a bowl, mix flour, oats, dried fruit, salt, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and ground almonds (if using), until well-incorporated.
  3. Because my hands get tired really quickly, I now, more often than not use a mixer, but this can be done by hand (it’ll just take a lot of elbow power) first with a pastry blender (which I will always call a pastry cutter) and then with a balloon whisk.  Cream the butter and sugars until the mixture is smooth and a light brown colour.  Add the egg and the vanilla and mix until well-combined.
  4. Add the flour and dried fruit mixture to the sugar and butter mixture until combined and you can no longer see the flour.
  5. Drop batter, a heaping tablespoon at a time, onto a lined baking tray (Useful tip: if you’d like more uniform-sized cookies, use an ice-cream scooper.  I use a 45mm one.).  Make sure the cookies are evenly spaced.  I bake 6 cookies per tray.
  6. Bake in the preheated oven for 11-13 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow to sit in the baking tray for about 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  7. Makes 24 cookies.

Fruitcake oatmeal cookies

The Cecil Brewer staircase

I love it when a store has a photogenic feature.  It makes for a great marketing opportunity!  Heal’s on Tottenham Court Road has such a feature.  Heal’s first opened its doors in 1810, at a different location.  But as luck would have it, the Heal family produced an amazing architect, Cecil Brewer who designed their flagship store on Tottenham Court Road.  The store is a large, open space filled with beautiful things.  I am always tempted to take a bowl, or a mug or a plate or a set of place mats to the counter and take the beautiful thing home to my tiny flat!  I haven’t succumbed to the urge yet, but I think it’s only a matter of time until I allow myself the indulgence.

Apart from being responsible for the architectural masterpiece that is the Heal’s flagship store, Cecil Brewer was responsible for creating the beautiful spiraling staircase that so many photo buffs have photographed.  It’s a star feature on Instagram for people visiting London.

I visited Heal’s primarily to look for Duralex cups because I wanted to bring them back to the Philippines as it carries a line of clear glass cups and saucers that my dad loves.  But apart from the Duralex cup hunt, I really did want to take a photo of the Cecil Brewer staircase.  I took a photo before, but I wanted to take a better one.  So after checking on the cups, I went to the back of the store and took my photo of the staircase from the foot of the spiral looking up at the beautiful light fixture.

I loved this latest photo.  Mostly because it was very quiet at Heal’s on the day and I had the spiral staircase all to myself (for a while, anyway).  After posting it on Instagram, a few days later, the picture got featured on Culture Trip London‘s (amazing) Instagram feed.  To say that I was tickled pink is an understatement.  The only word to describe how I felt was the Filipino word kilig.  It’s nice to be recognised like that.  Ha!  I’m really pleased that I’m taking noteworthy photos because it’s so much fun learning how to use a camera, properly!

The Cecil Brewer Staircase, Heal's London

Save

Featured!

I’ve been meaning to write about this for ages.  I got featured by one of the Instagram hubs as their picture of the day.  This might sound like small fry for some people but for someone like me, who is learning to take proper photos, being featured on the Instagram account of the UK contingent of my camera brand is a huge deal.  So I am sharing the photo!

Yay me!  Thank you Olympus UK for choosing my light trails photo as your Photo of the Day on 20 July.  You have no idea how much of an honour it is.

Oh and of course, thank you for creating such an amazing line of cameras!

Light trails

Where chicken is not a laughing matter: Absurd Bird

A version of this review was published on TripAdvisor and my other blog Panasian Kitchen.
I haven’t forgotten about my chicken bucket list.  Alan and I have been working our way through the list,  I just haven’t actually sat down to write my thoughts on the visit.  Thankfully I have photos to remind me of the visit.  With my memory, it would’ve have been difficult to write a review!
Absurd Bird is found on 54 Commercial Street, near Spitalfields Market, in London.  The buses go through Commercial Street so the location is commutable.  I’m not too certain about the parking, but I’m sure there is a way to find space for your vehicle.
IMG_4554You come into an interesting space with the bar in front. The seating spaces are interesting. There are interesting booths and long tables with homey upholstered benches. The space is great because one wall is made up of huge glass panels allowing the natural light to come in. The light fixtures are very interesting – gilded bird cages!
The food is definitely no laughing matter.  I’m thankful Mr Hyde sent me a mailshot that featured a discount for Absurd Bird.  It was the prompt Alan and I needed to go pay Absurd Bird a visit!

MrHydecouponAlan ordered the fried chicken sliders with a side of sweet potato fries.  The sliders have the same crispy on the outside and succulent on the inside chicken in them.  Every crunchy bite of the chicken was amazing!

SlidersThe sweet potato fries are yummy with a capital Y.  They were so crispy! I very rarely find crispy sweet potato fries. It was heaven in every crunch!

Crispy sweet potato fries I ordered the chicken and waffles with a side of coleslaw. The yummy sweet-sour coleslaw is more a salad sized serving instead of a side-sized serving and is a perfect side to the chicken.
Chicken and waffles You get 3 crispy on the outside and succulent on the inside pieces of chicken and 3 fluffy pieces of sweet waffle. You also get a small pot of maple syrup and (HURRAH!) a small pot of gravy!
ColeslawIt is excellent value for money and what we ordered was delicious! While we ordered on main meal and side each, I think what we ordered would have fed 4 people. The servings are generous and they are certainly worth every penny you pay for.

We didn’t order any alcoholic drinks but they serve lagers and cocktails I think.  If you’re attempting to limit the amount of calories and keep hydration simple, you can opt to just have tap water for the table.  They’re happy to do that for you as well.

Tap waterThe staff are amazing and very attentive without being helicopter servers (i.e. they don’t hover!)!  I found it refreshing that they knew their product and our conversations with them were natural and they were very helpful with suggestions.  I loved it that we got a chance to relax and enjoy the food that we ordered.

Generous portionsI am definitely going back for more of their chicken and waffles!

Of mundane things

It’s the weekend!  Hurrah!

I’ve been suffering lately.  I went to see the doctor recently to ask whether I needed to have my hands looked at again.  I suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome.  It doesn’t help that I make my living working on the computer and keyboard.  After an exam (it wasn’t just my hands and wrists bothering me really but I thought the muscle pains were a result of my body readjusting itself to deal with the pain in my hands), the doctor said he didn’t think it was a simple case of the CTS flaring up again.  So he’s sent me off for tests.  We shall find out what this stupid thing is when my doctor comes back from his 2-week vacation.

I am back in business – I have an iPhone again (thank you Alan!♥) and (stupidly) it feels like all is right in my world again.  It’s funny how I felt so disconnected and incomplete without the phone.  I suppose it was the convenience of using the iPhone that I got used to, how seamlessly it connected to my phone, my camera, my laptop and everything else.  I didn’t see myself as a person who needed a lot of tech.  I used to say that all I needed was a phone that could make phone calls and send text messages.  I remember resisting getting on the iPhone bandwagon and sticking staunchly to my little Nokia 6300 when I moved to the UK.  It could take photos and do everything else I needed it to do.  I was happy.  Then I was introduced to the weird, wonderful and oh-so-user friendly world of the iPhone (I do love you Steve Jobs♥).  I was hooked and I never really looked back after that.  Imagine having everything fit in the palm of your hands, have everything you need to communicate with the world – emails, text messages, phone calls, social media, music, entertainment (aka games), calendar and planner, and the internet in one little gadget.  After I didn’t have the phone (because I stupidly lost it on the train), I felt completely lost and very disconnected – despite the fact that I had a replacement phone that could do what the iPhone could do (I’m sorry Microsoft, your Windows 10 phone is great, maybe even amazing, but it just felt slow and clunky when I was using it).  Maybe it’s just that I became a Mac person instead of a PC person.  Alan says it’s like taking the rail replacement service when the train services are buggered – it gets you to where you want to go, but the journey isn’t necessarily enjoyable.

I have, however, taken steps to make sure that I do not lose my phone again.  My phone will now be connected to my bag at all times.  I bought a case that allows a lanyard to be attached to it.  My bag has a little do-hickey that I can secure the lanyard to, to make sure that I never lose my phone (I know, never say never, but in this case, I will!).  So even if I put the phone down on the train, when I stand up, the phone will come with!  Ingenious really.

wp-1470520728210.jpgIn other news, I made lamb biryani from scratch tonight.  For the very first time.  And (yes, cooking faux pas coming up), it was GOOD!  Get me, eh?  Frozen lamb chunks from the freezer section (bargain!), herbs, spices, rice and a stock pot, et voila!  Comfort cooking and comfort eating heaven!  I got the recipe from Alan, who got the recipe from The Telegraph.  As with all my successful attempts at trying to cook food I’ve only ever tried in the UK, I wonder if I can replicate the feat in Manila when I visit the folks.  I think my dad would like it.

wp-1470518155353.jpg

Save

To write

When I was little, I sat next to my Tita Migen’s portable Olivetti typewriter and lovingly trailed my fingertips on the keys.  I wasn’t allowed to use it.  I was told that it wasn’t a toy.  My aunt was a writer and she wrote short stories and articles for various women’s magazines in the Philippines.  One of her poems (it could be more than just the one, I can’t remember properly) was published in an anthology of poems written by the great and the good of Philippine literature.

At 9, I wrote an updated version of The Little Match Girl for our school Christmas party.  I remember that I called the main character Marina.  I don’t even know why I called her that.  But my “writing” the script for the “play” necessitated making several copies of the script.  So my aunt relented and allowed me to use her typewriter.  I loved it.  I loved the clickety-clack sound the typewriter made as I copy-typed my handwritten script (I was a two-finger typer, of course!).  I loved the smell of paper and onion skin (this was of course the mid-80s) and the way you had to be careful because you needed to make sure the carbon paper wouldn’t smudge the onion skin and your fingers.  I loved it.  I loved putting my words down in typeset.  It was the most exhilarating thing I’d ever done (not too hard to top as I was, after all, only in third grade).

Whenever I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always said I wanted to be a doctor.  But writing always niggled at me.  I always asked myself “what if I could write for a living instead?”

One summer, I think I was thirteen or fourteen, having read all the summer reading books (Nancy Drew, Sweet Dreams teen romances, the classics, of course) I had access to (I daren’t attempt to read any of my mum’s Mills & Boon books because I was told those were for older readers), I took one of my composition notebooks and started writing a story.  It kept me out of trouble that summer!  After reading what I wrote, I covered the notebook in wrapping paper and plastic cover and promptly forgot about the story.  Years later, my sister told me she read my “novel” and she said it was good.  My sister is the writer in our family, so I took that as a compliment!  I also fancied myself a poet (yes, I didn’t know whether I wanted to write poetry, prose or opinions!) and wrote stream-of-consciousness poems in a brown wire-bound Hello Kitty notebook which I bought from a bookstore called Alemar’s (don’t ask me why I remember those details, I just do!).  I’d love to read those poems again.  I’m sure they’ll be cringe-worthy but it’ll probably be a good laugh!

I am thankful that blogging has become a platform available to everyman.  Because it has helped me indulge in my creative efforts.  Not that I have actually written another story, short or otherwise, since my last foray into novel-writing.  I’m just thankful I can write and send my thoughts out there.  I may not earn my living from my thoughts but there is a certain satisfaction in being able to write down what you’re thinking and sending it out into the cosmos.

I would love to earn my living just talking about what I think about things.  I would love to be able to express my opinions and make a living out of that.  Ha!  Does anyone want someone with verbal diarrhea?  I know we all have to be very PC these days, and admittedly, I can be extremely un-PC, but I would love to just be able to talk about anything and everything under the sun!  Or write about it!  And, of course, get paid for it.

waiting to writeI’m putting it out there.  I’m sending it out in the universe.  Because I want to do something other than sit at a desk and work as an executive assistant.

Save