Well, hello folks. Greetings from the Tyrrhenian Sea. I am on a short cruise checking out the offerings of Indian chef Atul Kochar on the P&O Ventura cruise ship. I was in two minds about cruises. In hindsight, for someone who loves boats, ferries and slow travel, this seems a little daft. You know when you sometimes just get an idea in your head? Anyway, while not actually on holiday (I have freelance work to do, and I am finishing Project Bacon), I am loving the lull of it all, punctuated with the pop of activity when we dock at a port. It suits my binary speed setting. I love to be busy buzzing around checking out new things and new eats, but when I am not, and when I can, I love to relax, read, watch films, and drink wine.
It comes at the end of a crazy week. I spoke at a great new blogging festival Blogstock, which I really enjoyed. It was on Food Blogging 101, and when I get time, I will put together a summary for you. It is all from my point of view, and relating to my experience of course, but hopefully it will be useful for you.
From Blogstock I headed to Wilderness, dragging a small red suitcase, and a red shopping trolley full of waffle makers for my Sunday Bacon Club there. A Wilderness Victorinox tent on my shoulder. A big one, I wanted to almost stand up this year. By the time I made it via trains and buses, I was fit only for a glass of wine. Happily, my favourite Morito was there to provide one.
Sunday Bacon Club went well, despite the torrential rain. We were at capacity with 36 people, which was exciting. I need to arrange some more in London and elsewhere soon. I came back to London to meetings with M&S, who I spent my last day in London filming with and cooking lots of steak and tempura. I will share that soon. I have had much worse Tuesdays.
[Photos from Corfu – which surprised me and taught me – again – not to judge in advance]
Which leads me tidily to an update on sponsored content. You were all so supportive when I announced it, and I was so grateful for that. I had thought long and hard about it but, ultimately, I really care about what you think, it is very important to me. I have done just a few bits to feel my way, and figure out how it can all work here. Most importantly, I chose sponsors carefully, and the key is that the creative is all mine.
So far, the result has been more recipes (like for my Irish Beef recipe work, which I loved doing), and travel content (my next piece will be guide for you on Rome which includes some of my very favourite places, sponsored by O2 Travel). The money raised through all of my sponsored work will help to support me, and allow me to focus more energy here. I am also going to be re-investing in the blog. It needs a thorough reorganisation and redesign, and I want to invest in better technology, software, and camera and video kit. The aim is more content, some of it supported by brands, but always with my creative. Once things settle after the summer, sponsored work will always be buffered by lots of my own meanderings. It will support them, giving me more time to write in the end.
My other big project is of course my second book, Project Bacon. That behemoth. Despite having the experience of working on one already, I had underestimated the size of the task and costs of independently publishing one. And the work involved in the supporting Bacon Boxes which has been challenging but I have learned so much, I think I am on the cusp of a bacon business when all of this is done. Maybe. If I can manage to gather the psychological energy (I really want to).
I have been working hard to pay for the extended print run and added extras, and I have added an extra chapter, how could I have forgotten Bacon BBQ? I am working on it now, and will be testing the recipes the last week of August. Then I absolutely let it go and send it to edit. For all of you who supported the Kickstarter project, thank you, for your support and your patience. Getting there.
You got through that and you are still here? Great! As a reward, here is a recipe for Peach, Almond and Bourbon Pie. Peaches are luscious,wet and juicy, so I use ground almonds to mop them up, just a little bit. They are also there to soak up that smoky bourbon, which goes so well with peach. Peaches are in season right now, and can be found perfectly ripe. If they are not, as with all fruit, stick them in a brown paper bag with a banana, or wrap them in newspaper with one. They will be perfect in no time.
Make the effort and make shortcrust pastry. Crisp and buttery, it is perfect for this pie, glazed with egg and sprinkled with brown sugar before you bake it. If you really can’t be bothered, shop bought will be fine. But try it just once, if you haven’t.
Recipe: Peach, Almond & Bourbon Pie
one 10 inch peach pie – serves as many as you like, or just you!
1 x 10 inch / 26 cm pie dish
pinch of sea salt
12 ripe peaches
2 heaped tbsp ground almonds
2 heaped tbsp light brown sugar
1 egg for glazing the pie
1 tbsp sugar for the top of the pie
Make your pastry first. Combine the flour, salt and butter (diced). Mix with your fingers or a butter knife if you have hot hands like me (! – hot hands kill pastry – true), until you get a breadcrumb texture. Beat the egg and add and mix with your knife until it starts to come together. If it is still dry, add water by the teaspoon until it is just wet enough to come together. If too wet, add more flour. Wrap in cling film and leave in the fridge for half an hour.
Prepare your peaches. As you would peel a tomato, place a small cross at the base of each peach with a knife and cover with boiling water.
How long they sit in the water depends on the ripeness of your peach, but 2 minutes should be the most. Peal and chop each peach, discarding the stones and combine with the sugar, almonds, and bourbon.
Remove your pastry from the fridge and divide in two. Roll each so that they are just larger than your pie dish – the bottom layer should fit in the dish and the pastry should be just over the edge. Grease your pie dish with butter. Place the bottom layer of pastry in, and prick it with a fork all over. Place your peach mixture in and cover with the remaining pastry top. Use a fork to seal the edges and trim any excess pastry. Again, prick with a fork to release air as it cooks and decorate with the excess pastry if you want to. I always like to.
Beat the remaining egg and brush the pastry lid with it. Sprinkle the tbsp of sugar on top. Bake at 200 deg C for about 15 minutes to allow the crust to brown, then reduce to 180 deg C to allow the filling to cook more gently for about 20 – 25 further minutes.
Allow to cool until just warm and eat. I love it with sweetened vanilla and cardamom cream (whipped cream, icing sugar, toasted crushed cardamom and some vanilla seeds).