Tuesday, 17 June 2014

57. Experimenting in the Kitchen

Hello everyone. Sorry my weekly update post is slightly late this week, I was so tired on Sunday as I didn't sleep much on Saturday night as it was so stuffy. Hopefully they'll be on Sunday evenings from now on. The past 2 weeks have flown by, I've just about recovered from university. So much to do, so little time.

The bulk of last week was taken up by PASS training at university. PASS is basically a mentoring scheme where students in higher years help first years in weekly one hour sessions with academic and non-academic issues. I was a mentor for a local charity in first year anyway so thought I might as well be a PASS leader. We learnt about the different learning styles people use such as visual, intuitive and active. We planned a session, what we would say at the start of our first session and how to use open and closed questions to facilitate discussion. I had PASS training on Monday, Thursday and Friday.

On Tuesday, I finally had my haircut after almost a year! My hair was clearly on the bottom of my priorities during second year. I went in asking for a full fringe and a couple of inches off the length but my hair stylist said my hair was quite thin at the front (despite my resemblance to Hagrid at the back) so she suggested I got a sweeping fringe with a middle parting and a few layers to give it some volume and make it more manageable. If any of you are in Manchester and are looking for a fantastic salon then I recommend where I went, Razor's Edge. There are two salons: one on Oxford Road and the other in the Royal Exchange (where I go). The salons are unisex and offer a student discount too. My stylist, Sannah, also offered some really helpful tips on how to look after my hair better as it has been very dry and frizzy lately. She told me to use a deep hair conditioning treatment once a week so I've purchased the VO5 Give Me Moisture treatment mask which I am yet to try but will let you know how I get on. I've also bought some Moroccan Oil which is worth the hefty price tag and leaves the length of my hair (Sannah said never use it on the roots) so soft and shiny. It reduces frizz to some extent too.

In my previous post, I mentioned that I was reading Harlan Coben's Six Years. I finished it yesterday and honestly, it is the best book I've read in years. It's the first proper grown up mystery novel I've read and it definitely won't be the last. It has a complex unraveling of lots of characters all of whom play a part in the disappearance of Natalie who Jake loves very much. Jake Fisher is a Politics professor at an American university who met artist, Natalie at a creative retreat six years ago when he was having trouble writing his dissertation after the recent death of his father. Suddenly, Natalie dumped him for Todd who was apparently a former boyfriend and her one true love and she was mean enough to invite Jake to her wedding to Todd. At the wedding, she made Jake promise her to never contact them again. Jake kept his promise until six years later (hence the title) when Todd's obituary popped up on his computer because Todd graduated from the university Jake also went to and now taught at (Lanford College). Jake turns up at Todd's funeral expecting to see Natalie but she isn't there. Jake spends a whirlwind week or so searching far and wide for clues on Natalie's disappearance and Todd's death. I'm pretty sure Jake's a cat because he certainly needs 9 lives with all his near death encounters during his quest to find Natalie. What I will say is that Jake is not schizophrenic and he hasn't murdered Natalie or Todd so just stick with it. The suspense was torture for about the first 200 pages (it's 358 pages long) but then the pieces began to fit together and I literally could not put the book down even whilst I was munching on my Flake 99. I've also just found out that it's being made into a film and Hugh Jackman is going to star as Jake so you really have no excuse to not read it!

As many of you will already know, I have just completed my second year of a Biology degree. Last summer, I got science withdrawal symptoms and ended up buying lots of books to read like Bad Pharma and What a Plant Knows, watching lots of Sir David Attenborough and watching YouTube clips like Jim Al-Khalili's talk on how physics can revolutionise biology. I'm already craving science and once I've finished reading The Shock of the Fall, I'm going to read The Selfish Gene. On Saturday morning I woke up pondering one of life's great mysteries: is fear genetic? To answer that question to some extent, I thought I'd ask my good friend Google Scholar who has helped me out during countless university assignments. I am absolutely terrified of mice so ironically, I found an article in Nature on fear in mice which you can read here.

I love cooking and I love science so my science and food cravings in this stuffy weather led me to experiment in the kitchen this week. On Wednesday, I Googled what to do with spare ripe bananas and this came up. Yes, my thriftiness amazes me too. I've also been craving this chilled Starbucks caramel macchiato but it costs £1+ in most supermarkets and it's not the largest portion. I used to get one of these most days when I went to the library to revise last month and they are so delicious. I decided to attempt to make iced coffee at home so I filled a tall glass with ice, made instant black coffee and added the sugar and left it to cool. You then add the coffee to the ice and pour in some cold milk. I might purchase some caramel syrup to make it extra yummy and make the black coffee double strength as the ice does water it down rather quickly. Some people online even suggest making coffee ice cubes but I don't want to be up all night either. 

On Sunday, my friend Misbah came over for a baking day! The kitchen experiments continued as we baked a blackberry buttermilk cake. Neither of us have used buttermilk before in our baking and I always thought it was quite difficult to purchase in Britain as it is used in American baking a lot more. Disaster almost struck in true Great British Bake Off style (the recipe was taken from here) as there was a small patch in the centre of the cake that would not cook. We kept checking every 5 minutes as we were scared that the edges might get burnt. Misbah Googled what to do and we found that it was a bad idea to keep opening the oven and checking as that lowered the oven temperature so we lowered the temperature from 180°C to 150°C and didn't open the door until we could see that the cake was done.
Misbah and I also baked some strawberry macarons! It took about 2 hours included cooking time so I can now appreciate why those tiny treats can be so expensive. It's the second time I've used my Lekue macaron kit and the mould honestly makes life so much easier instead of drawing out circles all over baking paper. If you want to bake macarons at home regularly then you should really invest in one. My Mum loved them and had 8 but they were quite small. I'm really happy the red food colour paste I bought from The Cake and Bake Show works! The first time I made macarons, I used the yellow one and I had to use over half the tube just to achieve a pastel yellow -_-

Have a great week and see you on Sunday! Until next time, take care.

Mancunian Sheep x