Sweet Potato Bread

I moved house earlier this year. I’ve moved around quite a bit in the past 15 years, but this move felt like a particularly big deal for a few reasons;

  • I had lived in roughly the same part of London for four or five years and loved it dearly. We’ve moved to Muswell Hill (WHERE? IT ISN’T EVEN ON THE TUBE MAP) which is a little further out, and a bit far from most people we know.
  • I was moving in with my lovely boyfriend. Not necessarily the biggest deal ‘these days’, but, well, yknow. However the easiness and loveliness of this situation balances out any of the slightly negative sounding bits in my previous point.
  • Packing, reducing the amount of stuff I have to facilitate the sharing of a wardrobe/bookshelves, and moving in general is HARD WORK and I don’t really want to do it again in a hurry. So this was a long-ish term decision. Which is quite a decision to make when you only get a few minutes to look around a place. Even more-so when this turns out to be the only flat you actually view, because you really love the giant windows, huge high ceilings and are totally sucked in by having 3 geometric stained-glass windows.

Moving was fine, actually. We had help from lovely friends who shifted & lifted AND drove a van all for the price of some new local fish & chips (Toff’s in Muswell Hill is probably the best non-seafront chippy I have ever encountered), and unpacking was actually FUN. Having a boyfriend who will happily combine and categorise vast libraries of typography and London history books is pretty great.

And then the entire ground floor flooded. On our first weekend.

I spend my working life promoting the maintenance of historic London buildings, so I’m well aware of the endless battle to keep water out of early 1900s houses. Landlords or managing agents aren’t entirely used to dealing with tenants who actually know what they’re talking about, so we entered in to a month-long battle of repairs, endless Dynorod visits and rent reductions (VICTORY).

All of this somehow resulted in me being faced with something I’d been dreading.

I WAS FAILING TO BOND WITH THE KITCHEN.

I love cooking. Adore it. I love feeding people, I love experimenting, and coming home to get dinner going is genuinely what gets me through the last few hours of work most days. It’s one of my favourite ways to relax.

The first time I cooked rice – something I usually get perfectly right every time – it turned to the sort of glue you’re given in primary school to stick shapes in to your maths book. The first time I put sweet potatoes in the oven they charred to a flaky sinister-looking crisp.

Returning bathroom floods and other water-related issues with the house were making me grouchy and I just. could. not. cook.

Then suddenly this week, I snapped out of it. I started running (a little bit) again, my mum had successful major back surgery, and the house has been relatively dry for DAYS. Things were looking up.

BUT I bought too many sweet potatoes. I KNOW.

I’d already made wedges and a curry. I wanted a new challenge to celebrate feeling happy with the kitchen.

This is the first recipe I’ve posted here. Apologies for the lack of step-by-step photos but it was only after posting this finished snap on Instagram that people started asking me to write it down. And so…

Sweet Potato Bread

This takes about 2-4 hours in total, so start early.

WHAT YOU NEED:

(Ha! KNEAD! Actually this isn’t a very good joke as this is a NO-KNEAD bread but whatever)

2 mashed sweet potatoes (I oven-baked mine until the skin peeled off and they were fluffy but I DIDN’T MASH THEM ENOUGH. You need to pretty much puree them, I think).

1 sachet active dry yeast (I used one which doesn’t need dissolving in water – just add it straight to flour)

8 fl oun. milk

60g butter, melted

2 tsp salt

2tbsp brown sugar

4-500g plain flour (I started with 400 but added as I went)

WHAT YOU DO:

Add milk, melted butter, sugar and salt to the mashed potatoes and combine.

Add the flour and yeast, stir until a non-smooth very sticky dough comes together.

Cover with clingfilm or a tea towel for at least 2 hours, until the dough grows to about twice its size.

When ready, flour a work surface and turn out the dough. Flour up your hands and add some extra flour to the dough too, and roll it in to a round. Or a loaf shape. I made a big round ball, dolloped it in to a lined cake pan, and made a couple of extra little lumps to make small rolls to use as burger buns.

Cover again as before, for a further 20mins or so until everything swells some more. About half way through, heat up the oven to about 180.

sliced nice

Mine took about 20mins to bake. Everything was still a little doughy inside, as you can see – see also my clearly visible lumps of potato from not mashing enough. Woops. Once sliced, this toasts really nicely which gets rid of the doughy-ness anyway.

sweeeet

GREAT for dip-dip eggy and soldiers. REALLY great as a burger bun.

ENJOY!

“I didn’t think so much of him at first. But now I get it, he’s everything that I’m not.”

I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this, you either have an opinion on the films of Wes Anderson, or you’re considering seeing The Grand Budapest Hotel and do not yet have an opinion on the films of Wes Anderson. Lucky for you, I have plenty to say, whichever one of those people you might be.

I wanted to write a sort of ‘beginners guide’ for those who need it, but couldn’t do that without trying to rank my favourites. And I couldn’t do THAT without thinking about my favourite quotes, because, as my brother so brilliantly put over dinner last weekend, “everything is from something with you, isn’t it?”.

Classic Geisler family dinner scene. Or The Royal Tenenbaums. Whichever.

Classic Geisler family dinner scene. Or The Royal Tenenbaums. Whichever.

 

I’ve used some quotes as subtitles, by the way, because I am both clever AND efficient. Consider this a love letter. Not to everything the ankle-skimming corduroy-clad genius has ever done, but just to my favourite bits of his work. And the bits I think you should consider.

I’m going to split this up in to a few sections. In true Wesbian style, let’s just imagine those sections are chapters, introduced with a title card in the font Futura (which you can learn about in this great post by my other half).

It might also be useful for you to imagine that you are free from the constraints of reality, such as limited wealth, social standing, or being subjected to era-appropriate music.

CHAPTER ONE 

“OK – let’s check the itinerary” 

(or “I Want To See The Grand Budapest Hotel But Haven’t Seen Any of Wes Anderson’s Other Films”)

 
Without writing boring synopses, reviews, or pleading justification, I recommend that you kick off with my Wesbian Triple-Bill* Starter Pack:
Triple Bill - The Royal Tenenbaums, Rushmore, The Darjeeling Limited

Triple Bill – The Royal Tenenbaums, Rushmore, The Darjeeling Limited

This selection should give you a good overview of a few common recurring themes and motifs, which are all apparent in Grand Budapest too – for example;

  • Complex family units
  •  Wealth
  • Escaping
  • Loss/death
  • Self obsession
  • Bill Murray (*cue laughter at excellent pun, expertly set up)

This starter kit will gently introduce you to the ingredients of a typical Wes Anderson film. (Or make you hate predictable, over-stylised easily-identified Polaroid-tinted retro-quirkiness – just proving that I DO understand he is not everyone’s cup of tea, there). This foundation might help you appreciate TGBH a little better, but is of course not essential to your enjoyment of it. I thought Grand Budapest Hotel contained a lot more laughs than his earlier films, which is a really fun progression to spot. It’s nice to spot development in a film-maker and story-teller. However, knowing that Moonrise Kingdom won’t make you laugh out loud doesn’t detract from the Budapest-based LOLs induced by Ralph Fiennes’ inability to recite a poem without interruption, for example.

CHAPTER TWO

“We haven’t located us yet”

(or “A Spotter’s Guide)

As well as the common themes picked out above, I thought it might be helpful for me to make a little crib sheet. If you were hosting or watching some sort of marathon viewing session, or ‘Wes Fest’, you could almost certainly base some sort of bingo game on this. This is by no means extensive – these are just my favourite visual Wesisms, and the ones which help me prove various points in a slightly comedic fashion:

A handy checklist

I could add loads more to this but I’ve already written more than I have in months and I’m aware that you’re probably reading this on a short and precious lunch-break, or whilst trying to decide what to watch on Netflix tonight.

CHAPTER THREE

“Thanks. Thanks a lot for not picking me”

 (Or “My personal top 5 Wes Anderson films”.)

This hasn’t taken me too long to decide. Mainly down to being stubborn. Jason Schwartzman is a major viewing requirement for me, and I’ve written about my love for The Darjeeling Limited elsewhere. However:

1 – The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

Because of trains, and jewel-tones, and building a train with moving walls especially to make a film on, and the simple idea of unraveling until you go off the rails.

2 – Rushmore (1998)

Because of its many, many relationships, and young Schwartzman, and for feeling comfortingly autumnal.

3 – The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

For being funny, darling. For the beginnings of war being portrayed so sensitively through some sort of Wesmatron filter. For quick cameos and recurring imagery and the briefest scenes designed to look like beautiful paintings, and for creating layers of history.

4 – The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

For containing a beautiful cocktail of the most typical WA ingredients – families, wealth, misery, romantic struggle, self-obsession, rivalry, over-the-top residential interiors – the works.

5 – Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Adventure, costumes, Francois Hardy, The Great Outdoors, and Jason Shwartzman in shorts. Shortzman?

Honourable mentions:

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (2004) - I nod off every time I watch this. Sorry. It gets an honourable mention for little red hats, which would make it a great contender for my little chart above, and also for aptly providing the quote I used for the title of this chapter.

Bottle Rocket (1996) – I do love this, but it has just never sucked me in visually and artistically like the others. No groove yet. HOWEVER it is nicely summarised by another of my favourite things – The Bluetones – in their lovely, underrated un-album’d ‘The Bluetones Big Score‘. You could just listen to that song instead of watching it. Although then you’d miss out on Owen Wilson’s haircut, I guess.

So there you go. Some thoughts on the films of Wes Anderson.

And yes, I did ignore Fantastic Mr Fox. Partly because, well, it’s not his story, but mainly because I can never get that stupid Boggis, Bunce & Bean song out of my head whenever I think of it. And I have left loads out because this is only intended as a sort of vague outline, really.

Oh – and you should probably check out Kanye Wes Anderson too, because it is great.

Pylons.

Pylons (c) L.Geisler

Pylons (c) L.Geisler

Of all the things I’d expected to feel that weekend, the overwhelming swelling burst of patriotic pride I felt whilst glancing out of the side of a Megabus on the M1 in the early evening spring light was the one which most surprised me.

Grass everywhere. Fields of rapeseed glowing golden as the sun started to relax for the evening. Trees finally lush and green after the seemingly never-ending relentless winter. Long shadows exaggerating hedgerow boundaries.

It all just looked so…

So English.

And at that moment – as I sat, chilled from the over-enthusiastic air conditioning, wrapped up in my scruffy long cotton scarf, boots kicked off to ease my sore feet from dancing during two nights out in row, that I felt truly, wholly glad that I live here – that I had come back, that I hadn’t caught a plane, that this was home.

When I was younger, I used to be scared of those dark clusters of road-side trees, lining late-night drives home from jaunts in the Essex countryside or trans-London visits to family. Now those dense pockets of greenbelt, sliced by motorway, seemed more like a cushion, a quilted buffer – protecting, welcoming and safe.

Pylons hold up wires like celebratory bunting stretched over a village fete covering the green expanses of my island.

The Birds

I stood, feet aching from a night of dancing in heels, with my over-stuffed rucksack between my feet, zip bulging and buckles bursting, eating the last of a far-too-flakey croissant I’d grabbed in a hurry from the Co-op behind the bus station.

Wiping buttery crumbs from my fingers, I looked at the patch of floor beside my bag and wondered how on earth there could be so much bird shit in such a specific corner, indoors.

20130607-195214.jpg

Why here? How? Inside a bus station, beside metal benches and the barrier stopping me from accidentally boarding the 08:14 to Newcastle instead of the 08:30 back to London. A squashed little corner of concrete, absolutely splattered in a noticeably, massive amount of bird shit.

The London-bound bus pulls up. The barrier is removed and I’m free to board. I scoop up my big red bag and notice the trail of crumbs I’ve left in the small corner I’ve been waiting in.

Oh.

(Pigeon illustration by @dotmund)

Get up, stand up…

In the space of four days, I somehow went from having never tried anything anywhere near stand-up ‘comedy’, to performing two different sets during the past week.

Marc Burrows, (whose hair and life I have previously written about here) asked me a while ago if I’d join in with Geek Showoff.

If you know of or have been to Science Showoff (or Specialist Subject or Bright Club or any of Steve Cross & Co’s many excellent nights) it is like that. But geeky.

Rather than being offended at being branded with such a dweebish label, I decided that this being 2013 and the year of saying “YES” to things (or in the case, “Umm… maybe? I guess?”) I decided I would write a set about William Morris. Specifically, why I love William Morris so much and the very obvious comparisons between his life and work and my own. (See? You’re already laughing…)

As the date approached I suddenly panicked and doubted my ability to do this. Sure, it would be a friendly enough crowd on account of me bullying everybody I know in to attending. But I realised that I don’t even know how to hold a microphone. Or when to breathe. Or how long to pause (or hope) for applause for. Or how to finish. Or how to start. Our radio show has been broadcasting live since February now, but I don’t have to hold that microphone with my hands, or have bright lights shine in my eyes. I don’t have to stand up, or wonder if applause might follow what I just said. Also, if I get stuck on air, I can play a song. Which, whilst not impossible, is not as easy to do during a stand-up routine, and not terribly relevant to one about my favourite Victorian medievalist.

Sam Wong to the rescue!

Once a newcomer himself to the terrifying world of microphone stands on stages in rooms above pubs, (which by the way he conquered triumphantly), Sam had the quite frankly brilliant and equally daunting idea of hosting an open mic variety night for his birthday party.

He pleaded ENDLESSLY for anyone planning on attending to contribute any sort of act to the evening – which payed off nicely as it had been too long since I’d last seen two fully-clothed women perform a synchronized swimming routine in a Kilburn pub.

With just three days to go before Geek Showoff, I thought better of trying out my William Morris set, and read the outline of  “Johnny Cash Road Trip Logistical Analysis Adventure Story”, which is a soon-to-be video type project I have been working on. It is every bit as thrilling as it sounds.

I read through a short version of it on the radio, which you can catch in the last 10 minutes of the TRAVEL episode of Showing Up here.

When I performed it at Sam’s party though, something happened.

People LAUGHED!

People clapped!

People congratulated me once I had finished and began breathing normally again!

I decided Geek Showoff would probably be OK. As long as I didn’t confuse the two routines. Despite how much I love and know about both Johnny Cash and William Morris, I’m not sure I could convince a pub full of geeks that The Man in Black was really good at hand-woven tapestries of native plant-life.

And Geek Showoff WAS OK!

People LAUGHED!

People clapped!

People congratulated me once I had finished and began breathing normally again!

And if you really want to, you can pretend you were there and listen to this little MP3 of my performance.

The only bit that doesn’t completely work in audio I suppose is at the end when I showed off my tattoo, which is of the 1883 Morris pattern The Strawberry Thief.

If you WERE there, then thank you for coming, and laughing, and helping and advising and calming me down before and or afterwards.

I’d even be up for doing it again, perhaps.

It’s Friday I’m In Love

You may have seen me banging on about London’s original singalong night, Friday I’m In Love, on various social networks, over the past year or so.

It is difficult to explain the completely uplifting feeling I get from spending one night a month in a London club with a group of people who do not care about karaoke, or showing off under a spotlight, but just want to have a proper good sing song, a bit of a dance, and watch a really great band on stage.

I finally got to write about this awesome, unique clubbing experience in the Camden New Journal, to celebrate the night’s big move to the Purple Turtle.

Friday I'm in Love

Friday I’m in Love

Kilburn to Kensal – K2K radio

GUYS. Some brilliant stuff is happening. The fabulous Kilburn to Kensal initiative is running a lovely market, hosting all sorts of classes, courses and workshops, and best of all, will have a radio station from Feb 2013.

I WILL BE ON THAT RADIO STATION. With Juliet Stephens, who has been running the Good Ship Comedy Club for the past few years.

80% of success is showing up...

80% of success is showing up…

We’ll be hosting a weekly show, chatting about comedy, trying out material and showcasing new and local talent for two hours every Saturday. It will be called Showing Up, and you can listen to the pilot episode RIGHT NOW.

It’s got special guest Jay Foreman, some brilliant music, some music we broke, some music by Beirut and then quite a lot more by them because of the breaking I mentioned just then, and general chit-chat and jokes and scripts and funny things. Also, I phoned my dad for a bit. I hope you like it. If you don’t, we’re going to carry on anyway so it doesn’t matter that much.

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