Sunday, 14 August 2011

Chorley Cakes & Torchwood

There is much to be done. I'm having a baby. In France. The paperwork and the organisation required to claim my reciprocal healthcare and maternity benefits are making me feel dizzy.

Marlene re-opens next week. I haven't a clue how it goes. I don't retain lines if I'm not using them. This is not laziness, but an inbuilt safety feature to ward off multiple personality disorder.

I need to do my tax return so that I don't spend what I should be giving the government. My pay cheques stop at the end of September. I need to generate some more!

I need to think through what the Herbert is going to need when he's born (the working title is courtesy of Jo Parkin, I actually think it's a girl). So many friends have so much baby stuff to pass on which is amazing but I need to make lists of what has been offered and from whom so that I don't end up with six breast pumps and no cot.

Hardly surprising then, that I feel an urgent need to bake Chorley cakes and sit down in front of BBC i-Player catching up on 'Torchwood'.

A word about Chorley cakes. The best ones are available from Waites bakery in Hebden Bridge as I'm sure Sally, Kate and Daniel will agree. They will understand that the four-pack plastic-wrapped imitations you buy in service stations and all night supermarkets just don't measure up which is why I decided to bake my own.

Chorley cakes are like Eccles cakes but with shortcrust pastry instead of flaky pastry. It's not rocket science. The amounts I used were as follows:

200g plain flour
100g butter
1 teaspoon baking powder

Usual MO for pastry: rub the butter into the flour to the consistency of breadcrumbs, add water to bind and chill. The pastry that is, not you. You're busy making the filling:

75g currants (I used sultanas, works fine)
30g melted butter
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon mixed spice
Orange/lemon zest (optional)

I used white flour & white granulated sugar. This is not supposed to be a healthy snack. You can use wholemeal flour and brown sugar if you like, but it won't be the same.

Mix all the filling ingredients together. Roll out your pastry, cut into rounds. On each round put a spoonful of filling. Fold in the edges, turn and roll gently with a rolling pin until it spreads so that the currants show through.

Bake in a moderate oven (I used 175 centigrade) for about half an hour. Do not overcook. If the pastry starts to go golden, it's too long.

Serve with a glass of cold milk and a double helping of Captain Jack (Harkness, not Daniels).

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Tiles And The Consequences Thereof

Paul has finished the tiling in the bathroom. Doesn't it look great? All that needs to happen now is to tile the side panel of the bath and fix the shower in place.

It's going to be a tall shower. One of the saddest sights I have ever seen is a 6'5" Dutchman folded into a UK shower cubicle with his head bent against the ceiling. It was supposed to be a steam/sauna/massage facility and he couldn't even get hot water. There will be no such cruelty to our taller European cousins in my little house. Simple shower controls, sliding shower bar set high.

It has occurred to me that these tiles may in some way be responsible for the baby. Faced with a gleaming array of ceramic joyousness, I find it impossible to make a decision, so I took my tall friend along. Partly for company, partly for his capacious boot and partly to stop me spending the entire day going "Um..." in the tile section of Castorama. I think there's a very real possibility that this gave off mixed messages and my body mistook my solo renovation project for a nest-building exercise and reacted accordingly.

I never planned to exchange shabby chic for babby chic, but having had a little time to get used to the idea, I am of course delighted. And terrified. Come September, I shall be properly resident in France, and negotiating the French maternity system. I've managed it with the Mairie and permission for the échafaudage, I'm sure I can work out how to give birth in French.

One thing gives me cause for concern: M. le Maire is also M. le Docteur. I hope he's good at changing hats.