Monday, 23 August 2010

On the road again...

There's cold Welsh rain beating against my window, but I'm heading up to Edinburgh, the City of Sunshine. Sunshine, well hidden always behind banks of cold, Scottish rainclouds.

This marks the beginning of a long-ish period on the road for me. From Edinburgh I go to Shambala festival, near Birmingham. Then I have a few days' turnaround in Cardiff before travelling to Poland for a week-long film shoot. From Poland I head directly to London to rehearse a show for Hallowe'en. I'll have little breaks back in Cardiff, but from this side of it all, though I am excited, a large part of me is going to miss my own bed...

On the road again,
Goin' places that I've never been.
Seein' things that I may never see again

Friday, 13 August 2010

Eat yer greens.

I've just had a chocolate cake epiphany, dear readers, and I am now come to preach the way of the Chocolate-Zucchini Cake to you. Yes, yes, I know that over here in the Old Country they are called courgettes, out of some ancient fealty to your Norman conquerors, but as I'm fairly certain this recipe originated in North America, chocolate-zucchini it is. I've going on a day-trip with some friends tomorrow, and we're going to have a picnic. As one of my friends is vegan, and I do like a cooking challenge, I thought I'd find a good cake recipe that she can also eat. You could stick the animal products back in if you wanted to, but trust me, there's no need. This is probably one of the most moist and chocolatey cakes I've had in a while, and there's hardly any sign of the zucchini. I've adapted this from a few recipes I found online.

2 cups plain flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine salt
150g good dark chocolate
1 tsp instant coffee granules OR 2 tblsp strong coffee
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tblsp cornflour mixed with 3 tblsp cold water
2 medium* zucchini, grated finely

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a 25cm cake pan, either springform or loose-bottomed.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Melt the chocolate over a double-boiler with the coffee (granules or liquid) and allow to cool slightly. Combine the sugar and oil, then stir in the cornflour mixture and the melted chocolate. Add the grated zucchini along with any liquid from the veg to the flour mixture, add the chocolate and stir until just combined. The batter will be quite thick and heavy. Tip into the cake pan and smooth the top. Bake for 40-50 mins, until a skewer comes out clean.

I topped the cake with a ganache made from 50g of dark chocolate melted with enough boiling water to make a paste.

I've just eaten a slice - still warm - with a cup of tea, sitting in the garden. Do you think it counts as one of my five-a-day?

*I know that the perspective in the photo makes the zucchini look like the World's Biggest Marrow, but it's actually just a regular sized one.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Splott misses You

I can't sleep, and I don't want to fight it, so a late-night blog it is.

Sleeplessness aside, I'm enjoying a stretch of time back in Cardiff, after a fair bit of back-and-forthing to London. The travel has all been for excellent purpose - I'm going to Poland in September for a film shoot, and there have been a number of workshops in preparation. It's only now that the workshops are done that it's properly sunk in that I'm going. I've never been to anywhere in eastern Europe before, and although I know it will be a busy ten days, I hope I'll have some time to look around. The project itself is exciting; more so now that I have more of a grasp on what we're doing. The loose narrative is based around a family of four; there are four actors going, but we will not be tied to one character - we will swap and change and take turns. Some continuity is provided by the costumes of the family, which include latex masks made by the talented director. It's been an intriguing process so far, and only promises to become more so.

(As research of sorts, I've just watched the film "I'm Not There", in which six different actors play aspects of the character of Bob Dylan. It's not as similar as I thought it might be, but the film's worth seeing for Cate Blanchett alone.)

It's good to be home. I get up the morning and usually have the house to myself. I walk barefoot in the garden with my morning coffee and check on the tomato plants. I take afternoon naps (necessary if you have trouble sleeping at night). I cook proper meals.

It's good to be in Cardiff too. Yesterday I worked all day pulling pints in the brewery run by my friend the Aussie. He's built it up himself, and holds monthly mini-festivals with music and his beer on tap. I like serving. I've always enjoyed service work, actually. I worked at Starbucks for years, in Canada and here in the U.K., and while I could have done without the corporate bullshit, I genuinely enjoyed connecting with people as I made their drinks. Of course it feels much better to be doing it for a friend's business, than some shareholder-beholden behemoth. Friendly faces always turn up at the bar, and the music's good. Yesterday a woman who'd been at the festival most of the day came up and thanked me for "still smiling" even though I'd been working all day. That truly makes it worth it. After we stopped serving, and all the punters had finally cleared out, we sat around and ate the remnants of the BBQ and had some quiet pints ourselves. Then as I was cycling home, I caught up with a couple who'd been at the beer festival; we recognised each other and ended up sharing a companionable ride through the quiet side streets of Splott. I had a real "I love Cardiff" moment, a sense of warm satisfaction.

And another such moment this morning. I'd somewhat creakily pulled myself out of bed and cycled to the market to stock up on cheap veggies. I hadn't been in a while - I've been away a few weekends now. At my usual veggie stall the lady tallying up my order commented that I was there alone this week. It was a lovely surprise, to think that she knows my face and has even noticed that generally the Clown and I shop together. I explained that he's away up in Scotland. She's Thai and her English isn't great, so I suspect she now thinks the Clown is Scottish. She then asked if I had to stay behind to take care of our baby. "No, no, no, there's no baby". I'm not sure she got that either. She knocked a quid off the order total. I imagine it was out of sympathy, either at the image of my lonely vigil at home with the baby, or at the thought of the Clown, away on work in a strange town, bereft of both partner and child. It was touching, and as soon as I was out of sight of the stall I had to call the Clown to let him know: Splott misses him too.