– How good are you at pub quizzes? Guess these caricatures!
– Have you ever had lobster? And French jazz in Kennington…
– Debbie bares all on live TV!
– And as promised, Simon Brown's recipes for our cook's essentials mixer…
Pub quiz in Camden
Now it's a little-known fact that I'm actually quite – er – competitive. In certain situations of course(!). So did my pal Shyama know what she was letting herself in for when she agreed to come with me to the weekly Sunday night quiz at The Prince Albert in Camden? No she didn't!
I can't help it, I just can't help it! There's something that kicks in when I think there's an anomaly in the scoring, or the quizmaster sets a question that's actually wrong (he did this week, as it happens! – at least we weren't the only ones who pointed it out!). I just have this inate urge to make things 'fair' – it's a childhood thing and being the oldest of five, what can I say! But into the pub we went – and actually had a really fun night! The caricatures above were one round – I got seven – see how many you can get and I'll tell you the answers next week!
There was a wines anagram round (Shyama aced those!), and a Family Fortunes round – for instance – see if you can get the top answer to this – 'name a pop song with the words Lord or Lady in it'. The homonyms round – (words that sound the same but are spelt differently) – was where it all fell apart for quiz master Al, bless him. (eg 'an underage person/and less important', – the answer was 'minor' and er, 'minor'! Lol! – he thought they were spelt differently! In the end after a quick Google check, he admitted it didn't actually count as a homonym! But he gave it to everyone anyway! We – well Shyama – who is a journalist! – did well on the others. Didn't get 'to set a dog on/brilliant' though – that was apparently 'sic' and 'sick'… Eh?! Haha!)
But it was the music round – which is normally my favourite! – that really let us down. Whereas we'd been getting 7-9 out of 10 in the other five rounds, we got half out of ten! Half!! In the music round. Too bad it was things like 'Guru Josh Project', and 'Third Eye Blind' – who?!! The quiz master is obviously into indy pop and we failed miserably as a result! Lol. Oh well.
I thought the name we picked for mine and Shyama's team was not a bad attempt tho – this week's theme had to be a mixture of an actor and confectionery – we came up with 'Helena 'Bon-bon'ham Carter'… doh! Others were 'Hari-bo' Connick Junior, and Jack 'black-jack'. Can you think of any others?
OK so 5th out of 16 teams wasn't too bad. Will have to go there again! Only this time take my kids for the music round! Hehe!
More magic meals out
As I mentioned last week, I had a packed week of socialising. It's not often I get a lot of evenings free, so I made the most of it! Apart from my pub quiz night with Shyama, I also saw my lovely pal Thea one night, at the local Italian round the corner from QVC – San Gennaro – they think I live there some weeks I'm sure!
Then I caught up with my son's godfather who we call Gaffer (his real name's Nigel) for a super Thai meal in Wardour Street – where I used to go a lot with LJ when I worked in London a few years back, it's called Busaba and I loooove their smoked chicken and broccoli in noodles. But the piece de resistance was my Friday treat – lobster!
If you get a really special occasion to celebrate, I heartily recommend The Lobster Pot in Kennington. The food is absolutely amazing! Rocker Nigel and I had a fab night there – the décor adds to the ambience – it's kind of 'interior of a cruise liner' – even the waiters had white jackets with brass buttons and epaulets!
Loved the netting on the walls, and the authentic ancient mariner-type mouthpiece and instrument panel by the door! Genius! And the sounds of seagulls instead of music!
Afterwards we went upstairs in the Brasserie Toulouse Lautrec (yes really!) next door, where a beautiful French jazz singer was performing with an ensemble that included piano, guitar and double bass as well as the ubiquitous accordion! It was quite magical – made me feel like I could have been in the South of France! Shame I was with a pal and not a romantic interest but hey ho! Lol.
Mais oui! All in all, a lovely night with a good pal. Nige was on good fun form as usual during the meal – not sure the fellow diners appreciated his humour with the remainder of the lobster tho – but I did!
So some lovely nights out – and I decided over the weekend it's time to start dating again – so I'm on the lookout for some good singles nights in and around the south east, Surrey and London, OK? Let me know if you can recommend one! And if his pal Sam from Kingston is reading this – get in touch – sounds like you and me are kindred spirits! Hehe!
Simon Brown's tips
He certainly knows how to make a cake, that man! Even if I couldn't wait for him to cook the mixture before eating it during the show! Nothing like licking a bowl! Lol. And since my new mixer just arrived I'm planning to put it to good use and I've promised him I'll attempt proper baking! Simon's back on Wednesday 26th October by the way, with the next in the range of our new cook's essentials Ultra Pan range.
If you missed the mixer in the blue, I hope it comes back in stock again soon – add your own recipe below on the comments section if you'd like to share it with me! Remember though – the main thing is, the ingredients should all be able to be piled into the main bowl and let the mixer do the hard work!
On-air fun – Debbie bares all!
No it's not a black eye – Your's Truly took off telly tart make-up, live on air during Saturday's Liz Earle TSV show – for the full low down, watch the link! They said I was very brave to take off my makeup on live telly, but to be honest, it's easy with a range like Liz's.
It just shows you how good Cleanse & Polish is – I love it and use it all the time! (We featured the limited edition duo – if you hurry you may be able to get it in its special size and packaging for Christmas pressies!)
READ: Wow how proud was I recently, going down the book aisle in my local Tesco superstore and finding my writing group pal's new Mills and Boon novel on sale! It's her second one – if you like Regency romances, do go buy it – it's only £3 or so, and she has a lovely turn of phrase and some great research of what life – and love – was like in the olden days!
When I'm a grown up – one day – I dream of MY book being on those shelves! Hers is called 'The Earl Plays With Fire', it's green, and it's by 'Isobelle Goddard' – aka my pal Maureen from my Tuscany writing group!
If you've ever wondered what it's like in Tuscany, take a look at this lovely place from one of my first blogs. And if you're not into romances, well not the traditional ones, make sure you have a look at the interview I did with Lee Child last month – his new book is the nearest that his hero Jack Reacher comes to a romantic involvement with a laydeeee – I've added the link to the interview in one of my comments at the bottom of this blog – do go watch it, it's utterly fascinating how this man works, unlike most other authors!
WATCH: Haven't had much time for cinema this week – needless to say! But in the midst of my computer work, this little funny popped up – animal outtakes make me laugh, and this one is just sooooooooooo cute!
QVC: Well, there's a lot to see on QVC in the coming week – I'm thrilled to be presenting the new range from one of my favourite jewellery ladies, Carolyn Pollack. Do join me on Monday at 5pm-7pm for Sincerely Silver with Carolyn and me.
PLUS: In what's become an annual event – our Prices Candles Christmas gift TSV on Sunday night at midnight! I love the new type of clever candle that becomes its own little lamp including their classic vanilla pod fragrance!
Simple Victoria sponge cake
225g/8oz self raising flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
225g/8oz caster sugar
225g/8oz softened butter or margarine (butter gives a much better flavour)
Jam to fill
1 tablespoon caster sugar for dusting
Put all the ingredients into the bowl and fit the flat beater. Start on speed 1 then gradually increase to speed 6 and beat for 2 minutes. Meanwhile grease two 20cm/8" non-stick sandwich cake tins or silicone cake pans.
Spoon the mixture into the tins and level with a spoon then bake at 180C/Gas Mark 4 for 25 – 30 minutes until the cakes are well risen, golden brown and firm to the touch.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes then carefully remove from the tins and cool on a wire cooling rack.
Sandwich together with jam and dust with caster sugar before serving.
Peanut butter cookie – makes about 24
175g/6oz softened butter
55g/2oz crunchy peanut butter
85g/3oz caster sugar
85g/3oz soft brown sugar
280g/10oz plain flour
Put the butter, peanut butter and both types of sugar into the bowl and fit the flat beater. Start on speed 1 then gradually increase the speed to 6 and beat for 2 minutes. Now add the egg and beat on speed 6 for 1 minute. Add the flour and mix in on speed 1 – 2 to form a firm dough.
Using floured hands, roll the mixture into walnut-sized pieces and place on a silicone baking sheet or a greased baking tray. Press each piece with a fork to flatten a little. Bake at 180C/Gas Mark 4 for 10 minutes until golden brown.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire cooling rack and cool completely. Store in an airtight container.
Bread dough (for a loaf or pizza base) – makes one loaf/pizza base
500g/1lb 2oz strong white bread flour
7g/¼oz sachet fast-action yeast
3 tablespoons oil
300ml/18 fluid ounces luke warm water
Butter for serving
Put the flour, salt and yeast in the bowl and fit the dough tool. Start on speed 1 then gradually add the water and oil to the bowl. Now increase the speed to 3 and leave the mixer to knead the dough for 5 minutes. If the machine begins to slow then increase the speed to 4.
Now cover the bowl with oiled cling film and leave to stand for about an hour until the dough has doubled in size. Remove the cling film and switch the machine on at speed 2 or 3 and knead for a couple of minutes.
For a loaf, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a round loaf. Transfer to a silicone baking sheet or an oiled baking sheet and cover with oiled cling film. Leave to stand for about an hour until doubled in size again.
Remove the cling film then bake the bread at 220C/Gas Mark 7 for about 30 minutes until golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when the bottom is tapped. Cool on a wire rack for a few minutes then serve warm with butter.
For a pizza, roll the dough into a large circle and transfer to a silicone baking sheet or an oiled baking sheet. Add your favourite topping then bake at 220C/Gas Mark 7 for about 15 minutes until bubbling and golden brown. Allow to cool for a few minutes then serve in slices.
Meringues (or Pavlova) – serves 12
4 egg whites (with absolutely no yolk in them, or else they won't whisk properly)
8oz caster sugar
300ml/½pt double cream
450g/1lb fresh soft fruit (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries etc)
Put the egg whites into the bowl and fit the whisk. Whisk on speed 6 for about 3 minutes until the mixture forms stiff peaks (you should be able to turn the bowl upside down without the egg white falling out!). Now continue whisking as you add the sugar in tablespoonfuls. Once all the sugar is in the mixture should have become thick and glossy.
For meringues spoon the mixture onto a silicone baking sheet or a baking tray lined with non-stick baking parchment. Bake at 130C/Gas Mark ½ for 10 minutes then reduce the oven temperature to 100C/Gas Mark ¼ and bake for 2 hours until crisp.
For Pavlova pile the mixture onto the baking sheet and spread out to form a 25cm/10" circle. Bake at 130C/Gas Mark ½ for 10 minutes then reduce the oven temperature to 100C/Gas Mark ¼ and bake for 3 hours until crisp.
Meanwhile whip the cream. Wash and dry the bowl and whisk, then put the cream into the bowl and fit the whisk. Whip the cream on speed 6 for 2-3 minutes until thick but not grainy (or it will become butter!). Cover and chill.
Remove the meringues/Pavlova from the oven and allow to cool completely then carefully remove from the baking sheet and peel off the baking parchment (if using).
Use the whipped cream to sandwich the meringues together in pairs then pile on a serving plate and serve within one hour of filling (or else the meringues will become soggy).
For the Pavlova, transfer to a large serving plate and spread with the whipped cream. Pile the fruit on top then serve within one hour (to avoid sogginess).
Traditional dark Christmas cake (he's not kidding about more adventurous! Debs x)
400 g/14 oz currants
7 oz/200 g raisins
7 oz/200 g sultanas
50 g/2 oz glacé cherries, rinsed, dried and quartered
3tbsp brandy, plus extra for 'feeding', if desired
225 g/8 oz dark muscovado sugar
225 g/8 oz softened butter
4 large eggs, beaten
225 g/8 oz plain flour, sieved
½ tsp ground mixed spice
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
50 g/2 oz mixed candied peel, roughly chopped
50 g/2 oz whole un-blanched almonds, roughly chopped
½ tbsp black treacle
Grated zest of 1 orange
Grated zest of 1 lemon
In a large bowl, mix together the fruit and brandy, cover and leave in a cool place overnight to soak.
Line a 20cm/8" round or 17.5cm/7" square cake tin with greaseproof paper and grease well. Tie a double layer of brown paper around the tin.
Fit the flat beater and beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy (a table mixer is good for this to save your wrists!) Now add the beaten eggs one by one, beating well after each addition.
Next, gently fold-in the sieved flour and the spices then fold-in the soaked fruit and any remaining liquid from the bowl, the peel, nuts, treacle and orange and lemon zests.
Carefully spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and level the surface then gently form a shallow hollow in the centre of the cake so that it can rise but still have a fairly flat top for icing. Loosely cover the tin with greaseproof paper.
Bake in a pre-heated oven at 140C/275F/Gas Mark 1 for 4½ – 5 hours until firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
Allow the cake to cool in the tin for about ½ an hour then transfer it to a wire rack and leave until completely cold. Now wrap the cake in a double layer of greaseproof paper, place in a Snapfresh or airtight container and store in a cool, dark place until ready to decorate.
If you wish, you can 'feed' the cake on a weekly basis by unwrapping it and piercing holes in the surface with a skewer then spooning over a couple of tablespoons of brandy which soaks in and adds to the richness.
Keep an eye on QGossip over the coming months for how to decorate your cake, cook your turkey without tears, and Simon's Christmas Question. Simon's back on Wednesday 26th October, by the way, with the next in the range of our new cook's essentials Ultra Pan collection.