Dairy-Free Fruit Curds

Another post originating from my Brother Blog: http://whatyougotcooking.wordpress.com/2014/07/26/dairy-free-fruit-curds/

So it was a sunny day, and I decided to make some dairy free fruit curds; here’s the recipe

This recipe can be used for both dairy and dairy free curd.
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Makes 500ml (approx.) of fruit curd.

100g Margarine (I used dairy free spread)

2 eggs

2 egg yolks

150g caster sugar

Either of the following

-12 passion fruits

-250g raspberries

-6 lemons for a zingy sour taste or 4 for a milder sweet lemony curd

Firstly begin by preparing your fruits:

Raspberries: squash or blitz in a blender and sieve to separate the juice from the seeds (use a spoon to stir the pulp in the sieve)
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Lemons: cut in half and squeeze the juice from the flesh, sieve to ensure there are no pips or pulp.
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Passionfruit: cut the passionfruit in half and scoop out the inner. Either use a handheld blender or a food processor to blitz the pulp, this process separates the seed from the juice and flesh. Sieve the juice (you will need to use a spoon to stir the juice in the sieve) it will take a long time but you should only be left with the remains of the pips.
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In a large bowl using an electric whisk or mixer whisk up your whole eggs and egg yolks with the caster sugar until thick, light and creamy this should take about 5 minutes. Meanwhile on a very low heat melt the margarine in a large heavy based sauce pan.

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Once your eggs are thick and pale (you’ll know it’s ready because it will leave a ‘trail’ with your whisk) and your margarine has melted add the eggs and your chosen fruit juice to the pan.
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Keep on a low to medium heat and stir continuously for about 20 minutes. Immediately you will notice the juice and egg come together, gradually as you stir the mixture will thicken and as the eggs cook the mix will turn opaque.
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As soon as the whole pan is thick and opaque in colour the curd is ready. It may seem really runny but that’s because it’s hot. Leave the curd off the heat for two minutes whilst you sterilise the jars.

To sterilise your jars slowly pour boiling water into each one and carefully empty them and dry with a kitchen towel.

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If you’re using jars with twist top lids put the lid on immediately, I used latch topped jars so I covered my curds with Clingfilm and a square of grease proof paper.

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Here are a few little treats I used my curds on.

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They’re so delicious I don’t think I’ll make them any other way ever again!

Our gift to our legacy; University Debts.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
A classic question posed to most children.
Well at the ripe old age of 21 I was still asking myself this question. ‘What do I want to do?’ I had many interests and talents but even before anyone asked me about my career aspirations it was some-what drilled into my head from a young age that to get anywhere in life you had to go to university and you had to get a degree.
Why?
There was a girl in my year at high school who I sat on the same table as in French and she had always wanted to become a midwife. She somehow knew when she was just a kid what she wanted to do in life. But she really was one-of-a-kind, simply because I’ve never met anyone else who knew what they wanted to be at such a young age and never questioned it. She became a midwife… probably one of the best.
Back on track… Why are we ushered towards universities? I’ve never ever even been remotely interested in being a student. Not because I’m not smart, I got A’s and B’s at GCSE’s and 3 A-levels, I’m just not driven to academics. I always did well in compulsory education because I was smart enough to know that there was no getting out of it and competitive enough to want to be the best. I wasn’t the best but I must have been one of the most consistent. I worked had in all my subjects, including my worst (English) and I actively participated in after school activities like sports and drama.
My down fall came during my second year in College. Choosing to go to college was more like being on a country road with no turns, no lay-by to stop and think and certainly no manoeuvring room to turn around. I didn’t fit in at the sixth form I went to and if it wasn’t for a few really special people who I made friends with I think I would have just dropped out and become a full-time waitress (or waster). It must have been compulsory to apply for university because heaven knows why I would have. I remember struggling to decide what I wanted to apply for or where I wanted to go. I had my heart set on Falmouth University after finding a prospectus but that was out of the question when I told my parents. I thought about an arty course, tailoring, fashion, none of the above. I think the pressure must have been too much because I don’t recall being all too happy at that point in time. I didn’t want to be at college anymore and I only went because it was the only time I got to see some of the greatest people I’ve ever known. That sounds extreme but I lived 14 miles from college and on the opposite side of Preston to my 3 best friends.
I loathe the pressure that was put on me; onto every 16/17 year old, to decide what their future is going to be. It makes me angry I think it’s cruel. I didn’t feel like I could stand up and say ‘slow down I’m not ready yet’ I wasn’t given a list of my options, and even if I was I doubt one of them would have been ‘A break!’.
I know we were probably told that we didn’t have to go to university. That once we’d applied we could decline, but everyone was going and like I mentioned earlier it seemed like the only option. Rumours circulated that it didn’t matter what degree you got, or how well you did to get it, so long as you had a degree you were better equip to get a job. Well look at us now. Tuition fee’s tripled, less jobs for graduates, fewer jobs for everyone and a country in debt.

 

You know you’re not actually expected to pay back your student loan? Not that the government would use that as a tagline to get you to go but here’s the theory. If you began university this year you wouldnt start paying money back to the Student Loans Company (SLC) until you’re earning above £21,000paaprox (that’s £1,750pm or £404pw). You pay 9% of what you have earned over the threshold. For example if you’re paid weekly and in one week you earn £445 you’ll pay back £3.69, paid monthly you may have earned £1980 so you would pay £20.70 back to SLC. In theory if you’re lucky enough to earn £24,760pa you’d only pay back £338.40.

Say you started university before the tuition fee increase and the average debt of a student was £26,100, if you earn £20,000pa it would take you 55.5 years to pay back your student load (before interest). You might not live that long, I’m sorry to say, even though the threshold for re-payments is lower for students who began university before 2012 (£16,000). But the good thing is after 30 years the debt is written off anyway! That therefore leaves the tax payer to pick up the bill… You can imagine how many years it would then take to pay back the average loan of a post 2012 student (£53,400) impossible!

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I received a letter through the post this week detailing my debts to the Student Loans Company. In 2010 I completed a foundation course in Art & Design. I paid £1612.50 in both February and May of that year resulting in a £3225 loan from the SLC. Since my ‘graduation’ (there was no graduation I swiftly left for a summer working at a camp in America, missed the deadline for the post-graduate Fashion course and essentially passed on a place I didn’t really want or deserve) I have been charged interest every month. I don’t understand the rates of interest, see below (bottom of the post) if you’re interested in the maths. I have however calculated that I have added £168.31 to my debt. A very remedial debt compared to some students who maybe did three or four years and had accommodation to pay for.
In the time since my ‘university’ experience I have paid back a total of £113. I am lucky to have a job that didn’t require a degree, doesn’t involve any paperwork, and I get paid very well to do. I therefore every now and again earn above the threshold to pay back some student loan. But even you can see in the last year I haven’t paid back enough to cover the interest that has been added. What chance is there for students laden with tens of thousands of pounds worth of debt if I, £3000 in debt, can’t even pay off my interest? Ha! It’s a joke; it just has to be a joke. Whilst students are riddling themselves with debt they’ll never pay, our country is falling further into an economic disaster that I don’t think we’ll climb out of all too easily and Mr Prime Minister is still telling the ‘Youth of Tomorrow’ to go to University- Go Get That Education! Better yourself!
So I beg the question once more, why do we grow up with the idea that university is the last stop on the way to success? Why are the government putting pressure of the youth to be graduates?
There are obviously a lot of jobs that really do depend on the success of universities; I certainly wouldn’t want to be seen by a doctor with anything short of a medical degree. But a lot of young adults are going to university for the wrong reasons. They’re looking forward to living away from home, to partying all night every night and not waking up to their parents asking ‘where’ve you been!?’ they’re looking forward to the maintenance loan that they can spend on a holiday with their friends to have even more time away from home, they’re doing what some people call ‘Mickey Mouse’ subjects.
Obviously there’s a lot to learn from living away from home for the first time and that is a really good experience to have but why not learn that travelling? Many students find moving out of their family home emancipating, but a very large majority of them will be right back home when their time at university is up because it’s just too damn expensive to continue living on your own. You’re used to the life style that you could upkeep when SLC were giving you £2000 every semester but now you have to pay for your partying and expensive meals out whilst paying your rent and trying to find a fulltime job that you think you deserve because you graduated with a 2:1.
IT JUST DOESN’T MAKE SENCE TO ME.
My parents wouldn’t let me get a car on finance when I was 19 because I would be paying that debt back for at least 5 years, they wouldn’t let me take a loan out for a part-time college course I wanted to do, they wouldn’t even let me get a credit card so I could have a bit more money. They were right about not letting me do any of those things because I didn’t understand the implications any of them would have on my future (I have since learned the benefits of having a credit card provided you use it sensibly and pay it back in full every month but that’s another post for another day). So why do we all then passively agree to let our children be buried under thousands of pounds worth of debt from university. I know it seems like it all makes sense ‘They’re getting a degree’ it’s a proud moment in any parent’s life; I just implore you to think about the consequences especially if your son or daughter doesn’t really know why they’re going to university.
A loan in any other sense of the word is something that you pay back over a specific period of time. So why not a student loan? £50 a week for 10 years and you’ve paid back £26,000. No. It just doesn’t work like that. Make university more affordable? Make it an elitist system? I wouldn’t even know what to suggest to Mr Prime Minister if he asked.
In short if you or your child are at the age of starting to think about university please exhaust all the options, including the option to postpone applying to university until you really know what you want to do. There are apprenticeships, college courses that are just as revered, working holidays (Camp America, Australia, skiing etc). I urge everyone to consider the debts you’ll have hanging over your head, and not to look at it like a free education because you won’t pay it back in the 30 years before it’s written off. That debt will hang over your head forever because if you can’t pay it off the government will have to increase taxes. And the reality is (if we continue the way we’re going) that we will never pay back our student loans, the 30 years will tick passed and not a dent will be made. But the harsh reality of that is it is our children, grand children and great grand children that will be footing the bill. When the country is debted up to its eyebrows they can say ‘Thank you’ with their middle fingers to us. That’s something that makes me feel sick. And guilty.

 Rambling over.

 

 

13. Students who began their course prior to 1st September 2012 are on Repayment

Plan 1. Payments for Repayment Plan 1 loans are at the rate of 9% of income above

the income threshold which was £10,000 until April 2005 and then £15,000 until April

2012 when it changed to £15,795. From April 2013, the threshold was £16,365 and

from 6th of April 2014 the threshold is £16,910.

14. The Repayment plan 1 interest charge is affected by a cap at the bank base rate

of +1%. From 1 September 2013 until 31 August 2014, the interest rate for the Plan 1

Income Contingent Repayment Loans will be the lower of the Retail Prices Index (RPI)

in March 2013, or 1% above the highest base rate of a nominated group of banks. As

the RPI for March 2013 was 3.3%, the rate of interest charged between 1 September

2013 and 31 August 2014 is 3.3%. However, due to the low interest rate cap, the rate

from 1 September 2013 will be 1.5% until further notice. The interest rate does not

affect the monthly repayment amount of Income Contingent Loans; it will affect the

time taken to repay.

REPAYMENT PLAN 2

15. Students who begin their course on or after 1st September 2012 are on

Repayment Plan 2 and are subject to a different income threshold for repayment

which will be £21,000 from April 2016. They will make repayments at 9% of their

income above the threshold. Borrowers will normally be liable to make repayments

from the April after they leave their course, but for administrative reasons repayments

will not be taken through the tax system until April 2016.

16. The Repayment Plan 2 interest charge whilst studying is RPI+3% and remains

so up until the student becomes liable to repay. The current rate, which is applied from

1 September 2013 – 31 August 2014, is 3.3% + 3 % = 6.3%. Once borrowers are due

to repay, interest will be variable and income contingent. Those earning £21,000 or

less will be charged at the rate of inflation (RPI), interest rates for those earning

between £21,000 and £41,000 will be on a sliding scale from RPI to RPI+3%; and

those earning £41,000 or more will accrue interest at RPI+3%.

Puff Pastry

Another baking post, I really am trying to make the most out of the time we have left with a kitchen.

I just posted this onto my brother blog: http://whatyougotcooking.wordpress.com/2014/07/20/puff-pastry/

Puff Pastry

I always thought of puff pastry as a challenge, something really hard to make, but as it happens it’s really easy! The only problem with making your own puff pastry is that it’s very time consuming. You could rustle up some pretty good stuff in a day but to make a really flaky, puffy pastry you need to give yourself a few days.

Puff pastry is made up of thin alternating layers of butter and dough, when you bake the puff pastry in an oven the layers of butter evaporate and leave you with the cooked layers of dough. It really is a simple process.

I started my first ever puff pastry on Monday (it is now Sunday). There isn’t much to say about why I chose to make puff pastry, I had no plan with what to make from it I just wanted to do something new and challenge myself.

Here’s the recipe:

250g Plain Flour

1 tsp Salt

1 tsp Caster Sugar

150 ml Water

250g Butter

Firstly, using a fork combine the plain flour, salt and sugar in a bowl with the water. Lightly dust a counter top with flour and turn out the dough onto the counter, gently knead the dough with your hands until smooth, place to one side.

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Lay out a sheet of Clingfilm on your surface and place the block of butter on top, cover with another sheet of Clingfilm and using a rolling pin carefully roll the butter to a block about 1cm thick, wrap the cling film around the butter and put in the fridge for an hour.

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When your butter has been chilling in your fridge for an hour grab your dough and on a lightly floured surface roll out into a rough rectangle shape so it is wider than it is high. Make sure it is big enough for your butter to fit.

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Take the chilled butter out of the fridge, remove the Clingfilm and lay in the centre of your rolled out dough. Fold one side of the dough over onto the butter and then the other side on top of that. Carefully roll out the dough back into a rectangle.

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Now begins the time consuming part, with your rectangle dough fold a third of the pastry over onto the middle and the other side on top of that (like when folding the butter into the dough) and roll together into another rectangle. Repeat this step once more.

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Begin folding the pastry onto itself again but wrap in cling film and put into the fridge. Whilst making puff pastry the butter will become soft, every few folds it will need to be put back into the fridge to set, this is what makes puff pastry such a time consuming task.

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If you’re wanting to make your pastry quickly all in the same day leave the pastry to chill for an hour at a time and folding 3 or 4 times each time you bring it out of the fridge, doing this about 4 times in total. This will make a very rough puff pastry; the butter may have spread thinner in some places so there might be parts more risen than others.

Otherwise leave to chill for 8 hours each time, folding no more than 3 times each time you remove it from the fridge and repeating this process at least 4 times, if not more.

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I took the pastry out of the fridge each morning and evening for 4 days.

Once the pastry is formed you can do whatever you fancy.

Keeping it refrigerated it’ll last about a week. You could cut it into quarters and keep in the fridge to take out when you need.

Here’s what I made with my puff pastry:

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 Jam & Custard Puffs

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Gluten (but not guilt) Free Fly Pie

Current slice

 Re-blogged from my brother blog: http://whatyougotcooking.wordpress.com/

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My mum is gluten free. It’s not a cult, or a religion, in fact it’s quite common. In medical terms being gluten intolerant is known as coeliac disease, it is an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine resulting in an inability to digest the glutens in wheat. It’s also commonly misdiagnosed as IBS. As I say, my Mum suffers from discomfort when she eats anything containing Gluten (and also dairy).

Being Gluten intolerant wasn’t easy to diagnose years ago but in the last 10/15 years there’s been an increase in coeliac sufferers and whilst blood tests can still be wrong there’s more out there to help. Most supermarkets offer a ‘Gluten Free’ range; they’re usually shelved together so you don’t have to search the store high and low, offering gluten alternatives to bread, biscuits, crackers, chocolate, etc. Whilst there are many different options sometimes the quality can be lacking and the products tend to be expensive. My mum buys her bread from the supermarket but mostly gets by making her own gluten free meals. 

There are recipe books available and although they’re tried and tested before making it into the book my mum found that she had to work with the recipes to get them right. It took her a few months before she mastered the gluten & dairy free cakes but now you wouldn’t know the difference! And after years of different pizza base recipes she’s cracked it and has the perfect crispy thin Italian style pizzas with little effort. 

In the coming months we’re going to be making a lot of gluten and dairy free things in our new kitchen. Our house is having a hefty rear extension which includes a brand new kitchen. Once it is installed there will be set areas for gluten free and we’re hoping to be hygiene certified to start selling cakes from home! 

There’s an increasing demand for gluten-free everywhere now. It’s not just a dietary deficiency it’s become a healthy way of living, many people believe our bad health is connected to the intake of too much gluten (and processed) foods. 

I’m not about to burst the bubble on all my mums recipes, most of them I don’t even know, but this simple fly pie is a gluten and dairy free treat that you can make in a flash.

My mum made some pastry for a quiche and an apple pie and I asked if I could use what was left over.

Here’s the recipe and the method: 
Fills a 7” round pie dish

Oven temp 180 oc (fan assisted) 
Ingredients 

300g currants (soak in hot water for at least an hour)
50g dairy free margarine
50g light brown sugar 
25g golden syrup
1 tbsp corn flour (sieved) 
250g gluten free pastry (can usually be found in the chilled or frozen section of the supermarkets) 

Once the dates have been soaking for at least an hour and absorbed enough water to make them plump and juicy drain the excess liquid using a sieve.

On a lightly floured surface carefully roll 2/3rds of you pastry till it’s about 2mm thick. Line your tin with the pastry but don’t trim off the sides. 

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With the other 1/3rd of pastry roll out big enough to cover the lid of your pie case. I chose to use a small heart cutter and make a pattern on the top of my pie but provided there’s at least one cut in the lid for the steam to escape you don’t need to make any patterns.

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On a low heat melt your margarine in a pan and add the syrup and brown sugar. Ensure the sugar is completely dissolved and sieve the corn flour into the pan. Take off the heat and pour in the drained currants

Stir the mix to completely cover the currents with the syrup mixture and pour into the pie case. Using either the syrup or a touch of water brush the rim of the case and place the lid on top of your pie (decorated or not) secure down by pinching the pieces of pastry together and finish with an egg wash and sprinkling of caster sugar.

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Bake in a pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes

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Allow to completely cool (or if you can’t wait like my mother at least let the pie stand for half an hour!)

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Pizza Cones!

 

Original post on my brother blog: http://whatyougotcooking.wordpress.com/2014/07/15/pizza-cones/

 

Nothing good comes from plagiarism. Pretending you invented or came up with an idea. Even if no one catches you out you’ll always know. So I won’t pretend this is my idea. I will also never try to convince myself, or anyone else for that matter, that an idea I may have could be completely unique.
Now that that’s out of the way…
Today’s post is another kitchen based one. It’ll probably be a while before I can do another cooking post because the work began on our house yesterday to extend the rear meaning I’ll finally have a room big enough to fit in and most importantly to my mother we’ll have a bigger kitchen (including a pantry- ooohh ahh). So I decided to make the remaining time in the current kitchen worthwhile.
Here’s the story all about how I made pizza cones…
We had pizza cones our first year at Open’er festival in Poland. Unfortunately, and much to our dismay, when we returned this year the pizza cones hadn’t followed suite.
I had a go at making them before using some cream horn cones and some of my parents left over gluten free pizza dough and they turned out alright. For a first try.
This time I’m making them with regular flour (gluten and all)…So whilst pizza cones aren’t my idea the method is completely my experiment.

Here’s the method & the recipe-

Makes 6
You will need 6 cream horn cones (they’re metal cones used to make cream horns)
A rolling pin
And patience

Ingredients:

150g strong white bread flour
100ml warm water
1/2 teaspoon dried yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon caster sugar
1/2 table spoon olive oil

I began in the morning by making the dough so it could raise throughout the day.

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In a bowl weigh out the flour and dried yeast, give these a mix with a spoon to combine and then add the salt and caster sugar.

Make a well in the center of the mixture and pour the warm water and olive oil into the middle.

Using a large spoon or your hands mix the ingredients together until they combine.

Dust the top of a kitchen top/ work surface with plain flour and knead the dough for 5 minutes.

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After the dough is well worked shape into a ball and put back into the bowl and cover with cling film.

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After an hour or so knead the dough for another 5 minutes then put back in the bowl, stretch a damp cloth across the top and cover with cling film.

Allow the dough to raise now until you need to use it.

For my sauce I heated up a table spoon of olive oil in a pan, added one chopped garlic and a chopped red onion, cooked on a medium heat before adding passata (however much you require) and leaving on a low temperature for about 10 minutes to heat through.

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I used mozzarella for the cheese and chopped some ham (putting half into the sauce).

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After the dough has risen to at least twice its size and you’re ready to make your pizza cones preheat the oven to 210oc, take the dough and divide it into 4 small balls. Take each ball and using a rolling pin roll it out as thin as you can get (about 2/3mm).

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Place your cone (see image above for picture of a cream horn cone) over the rolled out dough (see image below) and using a sharp knife cut a straight line adjacent to the cone.

Roll the dough around the cone and again cut a straight line, the other side, adjacent to the cone but allowing the dough to overlap about a centimetre. Secure to dough with water and by gently rolling the cone.

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Using the scraps of dough from the cut offs finish all 6 cones and place each one on a baking tray upside down.

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Cover with cling film for half an hour to let them rest and rise a little more. Once rested brush with egg wash (one beaten egg) and cook in a preheated oven for 5/6 minutes (just before they start to colour but are beginning to cook).

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Unfortunately during this experiment one cone spilt open at the bottom so I had to eat it.

Fill each cone up to two centimetres from the top with your sauce and then fill the rest with your chosen ‘topping’.

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To bake upright I placed the cones in between the wires on the ovens shelf (you could try an icecream cone holder (preferably a metal one)) for I’d say another 5 minutes but I don’t actually time it… Until the cheese has melted and the base has coloured a golden brown.

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Probably best to allow them to cool a bit before taking a massive bite out of them because they will be extremely H.O.T!
 

They’re a really great idea if you want something a bit different.

Happy Munching Guys!

Open’er Music Festival, Gdynia, Poland.

 

Anyone looking for travel tips scroll down to the bottom.

 

This week has been one of those ‘this-time-last-week’ weeks.
This time last week we were getting ready to head out of our apartment in Sopot and on the train to Gdansk. This time last week there was thunder in the clouds and lightning flashes lighting up the sky.
It was our second year at Open’er music festival. Last year had been an experience I enjoyed so much I wouldn’t let the idea of round two go.
Last year we flew to Warsaw and suffered a six hour train journey to Gdansk (crowded in the corridor between two cartridges where they stick the toilet) which left me with unrelenting vertigo for almost the entire holiday. We stayed in a flat at the top of what I think I counted as approximately 120 steps in almost the heart of Gdansk. The apartment was great, there was access to the roof through the window of the master bedroom so we used that as a balcony to drink on and play music for most of the day before heading to the festival in the evening.
The errors we made the first year were leaving it too late to book our flights, hence flying out to Warsaw (which in its self was a great city) & the train journey from hell, and not really researching the logistics of the festival. To get to Open’er festival we had to walk through town to the train station which took about 10 minutes at most, and get the train from Gdansk Główny to Gdynia Główny, it is a straight forward direct train. What we didn’t know when we got to Gdynia was that there were shuttle busses running from the train station to the festival, so for the first day we ended up getting a taxi. Taxis in Poland are cheap, everything in Poland is cheap, but I don’t particularly like the way polish people drive. It’s very… Erratic, so I wasn’t thrilled about our proposed mode of transport but was out ruled about 6-1.
When you get to the entrance of the festival there are Polish security looking out to make sure you don’t take any beer in with you (the only beers you can take are cans if you’re camping) and it’s about a miles walk to the wristband check. To get your wristband on day one you need to take your ticket along with your passport and get it changed, the exchange point is right by the entry into the actual festival arena (unless you’re camping it’s about half a mile down the path). Unlike a lot of other festivals Open’er operate searches as you go in, every day. A quick pat down and check in your bag and you’re set to go.
The main stage is directly to your left as you walk in, the tent stage is across the field about 3/4′s of a mile at the far end & there’s a ‘Hear & Now’ outdoor stage between the two (closer to the Tent). These were the only stages we spent any time at our first year so we weren’t aware of ones that we saw this year, the ‘Beats’ tent and an ‘Alter Stage’ (Alter is official festival organiser and Heineken sponsor the festival). If you look towards the big Tent from the main stage to the right there’s a huge Heineken VIP building and a fenced off area with bars, toilets and food stalls, just up from there is where the ‘Beats’ stage was. To the left, another fenced area running the whole way down a path from the main stage to the Tent with bars, food stalls, clothes stalls, another Heineken VIP area, toilets, chill out areas and a Silent Disco. Halfway down the long path (which is some form of run way as the site is on an airfield) there’s a broken down bus, painted white and graffitied with people’s names and messages from the years at Open’er.
The only beers you can get in the festival are Heineken or Desperados. You can only purchase these drinks (and the food) with festival ‘tokens’. Each token is valued at four złoty (as I write this that is the equivalent of about 80p) and each beer is two tokens.. I trust you can do the maths on the beers. You’re only permitted to drink in the restricted fenced off areas. We bought the tokens 100 PLN at a time (25 tokens) which lasted just shy of two days for me.
There is Wi-Fi in areas on the site and plenty of places to sit. Most people working speak English but I would highly recommend learning a few key Polish Phrases (see below).

 

Our second year at Open’er smoothed out many of the errors we made in our rookie days. Instead of staying in Gdansk and making the journey to (and from) the festival an hour long each way we stayed in Sopot. We learnt about Sopot in our first year when 4 of the group had left on the Saturday the remaining few moved to a hostel. Sopot is the place to be. I would easily just recommend the town as a holiday destination, the beach (which was 5 minutes’ walk from our apartment this year) is beautiful. The sand is white, it stretches right across the coast as far as you can see left to right, there are bars and cafés, a pier (7.50pln to get access to the pier but there’s a nice bar/cafe that serves food), souvenir stands and bike rental. The centre of town was only a 5 minute walk, in a different direction, from our apartment, if you went to town you could also get to the beach and loop back round to our apartment. There are clothes shops, even a recognisable H&M, a ‘pharmacy’ (like Boots), Mexican restaurant, Italian restaurant, MacDonald’s ‘restaurant’ anything you could really need. Another particular attraction about sopot is the ‘wonky house’ it’s quite a stand out feature..just google it…
Our decision to stay in sopot made our journey to Open’er easier; the train took 15 minutes and is on the same line from Gdansk. The shuttle bus was still about 15 minutes but because our apartment was two minutes from the train station we could guarantee if we set off at 4, we’d have a beer in our hand chilling out at the festival by 5.
Programmes at the festival are free (unlike the extortionate price you’ll pay at English festivals), tickets were £110, more if you were camping. For 7 nights the apartment we rented was about £100 each and I spent no more than £250 whilst out there. Including return flights to Gdansk Airport (a 30 minute taxi ride and 80 złoty) the ‘holiday’ must have cost about £550. The line up is always good, there aren’t many stages so not a lot clashes and I get the feeling the organisers try to arrange it so the chance of people wanting to watch the ‘headliners’ of the Tent stage whilst the Main stage headliners are on very slim (completely different styles of music).
I hope to make the journey again next year! Rumour has it they’re expanding and adding more stages!

 

Tips:
Stay in Sopot or Gdynia. I don’t recommend camping at any European festivals. The festivals usually start late afternoon and run late into the evening because of the heat so if you plan on camping you’re going to struggle with the heat of sleeping during the day. (Sun starts to rise about 3.30/4 ish)

 

Shuttle busses run from Gdynia Główny train station.

 

Learn a few Polish phrases. http://www.meetpoland.com/useful-polish-words-and-phrases.html

 

http://www.piasecki.org/101_phrases.htm

 

Everything is cheap so buy toiletries out there! This includes towels (for the beach).

 

Don’t expect the cider (Redds, Somersby) to taste the same, it’s more like an alcoholic appetiser.

 

Book your flights in plenty of time!
Don’t be stuck with a flight to Warsaw & the worst 6 hour train journey of your life!

Plan ahead! 

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Race. For Life.

I’m not a particularly needy person. I’m happy to be on my own, confident in fact. I’ll go to the cinema alone, the pub, for a meal, a walk, the gym, alone. I’m doing the race for life. Alone. Doing things alone doesn’t scare me, I don’t need someone holding my hand. But today I feel like I would benefit from someone’s distractions. Conversations to pass the time till the race kicks off at 11. Unfortunately the minutes pass by as slowly as I imagine my feet will be moving once I finish the 6th mile.
Today.
Since I finished my first race for life (5k last summer) I’ve been building up to this. I’ve kept running, I actually consider it a hobby- get that! I’ve done two 10k runs so I know I can do it. When the pressure is off. But can I do it now? When it counts. When I don’t want to let myself down. I hope so because this isn’t just for me. This is for my nana. For my mum, my whole family, your family, their family, everyone. Anyone. It’s for cancer. It’s our pledge to fight, to carry on fighting. And to kick cancers ass!

I give myself a list of things to think about through the race, ways to stay focused (friends, family, previous runs, what I’ll have for dinner, what I’ll have for tea etc) Read a book for an hour, check my Facebook, twitter, emails and before I know it the hour is upon me!

It’s only 10 but I start to get ready, take my jumper off, fix my number to my front and my sign to my back ‘I race for… My Nana x’ leave everything I don’t need (except £2 for a bottle of water) in the car and follow the other runners to the meeting point.

A 5 minute walk and I’m there, amongst hundreds if not a thousand other women all running/jogging/walking for this one reason. To beat cancer.

There are a few speakers, a cancer survivor who had to break the news of her breast cancer to her 4 year old daughter when she was diagnosed. Now she’s been given the all clear and she’s thanking us. For taking part, for sponsoring, for helping keep her alive, for her daughter. Another woman, part of the Manchester cancer research unit, I forget to take note of her exact position but it’s high. She gives us the figures, the percentages. She mentions how testicular cancer has jumped up to a 98% survival rating, how in the last 40 years they’ve seen remarkable improvement. However there are still some shocking statistics. Brain cancers for instance, research in the last 25 years has doubled the chance of surviving
but it’s still only around 12%. Then I hear her say it… Pancreatic cancer. The statistics are still too low.
The fact she’s here… the amount of people here.. the survivors… it’s all very overwhelming and I take the chance to grab a bottle of water from an ice-cream van and calm my nerves. By the time I’m back in amongst the crowd they’re starting the warm up and the ‘stomp’. We’re herded into place behind the starting line (which will eventually turn into the end), runners first. So I move over with all the other runners prepare my playlist, turn on my Nike + app (I don’t go running without it) and the count down begins…

..9… Plug in my left head phone..
..8… Put my phone in the pocket at the top of the back of my leggings..
..7… Check my number is pinned to my front..
..6… Make sure my laces are tied and no loose bits could cause me to trip..
..5… Prepared.. 4… Nervous…
..3…Plug in my right headphone..
..2… Times up..
..1…

The horn sounds and the front runners set off. It takes about 30 seconds before we’re on the move and another minute before we’re at a pace a little bit quicker than a jog.

The day is hot and I can already tell, even in the shade of the trees, that this is going to be a sweaty run. It’s difficult to get up to my personal speed, with so many people everyone runs at a difference pace, it becomes a skill weaving in and out of the other women until we begin to ascend. It’s not a big hill, thankfully, but it’s more than some runners can manage and slowly people start walking, making it more difficult to keep the pace up and get past them, it starts to level off and people start to run again making it easier to get by.

We reach the 2k marker, about 13 minutes in, the pack has disperse and it’s easier to run at a comfortable pace. Still there are people passing. I don’t see faces, just the backs of heads and the signs on their backs. ‘…for my mum’, ‘my Uncle Mike’, ‘Everyone who suffers from this horrible disease’. I dont know any of these people but we are, for today at least, all united.

The K’s pass by (not quickly by any means) and the heat intensifies. Somewhere between the 3rd and 4th kilometre they have a foam machine spurting out what is either strawberry milkshake or bubblegum (it’s hard to distinguish) smelling foam. Quite bizarre I think. Up another ascent (there seem to be more ups than downs in this park- ironically enough) and round to the right before the worst hill of all, it never seems to end, but worse, you think you’ve come to the end and you’re rounding a corner to see it keeps going! Ugh.

From the top you can see and hear the starting point/finish line and I know I’m almost half way, all the 5k runners will be almost finished, infact some of them are and they’re cheering us on. We stay left after the final bend and begin the route again. I take comfort in knowing there’s less to go than we’ve already done. Even if I ‘turned back’ I’d just have to go further than I’ve been and anyway the idea of weaving through all those people again is enough to make me carry on.

I slow down to what was probably a quick walk and take on some water (little did I know round the next corner the cadets were handing out cups of water) and after half a minute begin again. I’m unable to regain the pace I had before but I was expecting that. I notice my skin is glistening in the sun.. It’s just sweat, not trying to romanticise anything. I can feel the sweat drip down my spine. 6k.

At this point we’ve started lapping the walkers, they’re scattered but the further we go the more hunched they are and despite how tricky it is to pass them at points I continue running.

Before I know it, after thinking about the fact I have pizza in the fridge at home and I bought ‘The Book Thief’ on DVD yesterday it’s 8k. Almost foam time again! The walkers are in thick groups. It makes the second to last ascent slower than I’d like to get it over with but then it’s the hellish hill and the home straight!

When I finish I don’t collapse like I expected I would. I queue up for my medal, pass on the snack, down the bottle of water. And stagger away slowly.

Ive forgotten where the car park is, surprisingly enough there’s more than one car park and there’s a fork in the road. But I manage to take the right path and before getting into my my car I unwind all the windows.

I completed the 6.7 miles, 1/2 a mile more than a 10k, in 1 hour and 9 minutes (according to the stopwatch that began counting when the race set off).

There’s no rush to go home so I just sit in my car for half an hour. Interestingly enough the sweat is drying and leaving tiny bits of salt on my skin. I realise how hungry I am and that I have pizza in the fridge.

I don’t feel like driving very fast. Too much speed for one day.

Happy Race for Life day!
🙂

Sound track/playlist

We the Wild- Body Electric (Blue)
Rae Morris feat. Fryars- Cold
Orla Gartland- Roots
Angel Haze- Deep Sea Diver
Carnival Youth- Never Have Enough
Kari- I Am Your Echo
Ed Sheeran- Runaway
Charlotte OC- Colour my Heart
Ariana Grande fear. Izzy Azalea- Problem
Frightened Rabbit- If You Were Me
Ed Sheeran- Take it Back
Flume & Chet Faker- Drop The Game
Kwabs- Wrong or Right
Jennifer Lopez- Get Right
We the Wild- Daisy May
Margaret- Thank You Very Much
Ella Henderson- Ghost
Tiesto- Wasted
Papa- Put Me To Work
Ed Sheeran- Bloodstream
Indiana- Slow Dancing
Augustines- Nothing To Loose But Your Head
Broken Records- Revival
Rosie Lowe- Right thing (Andrea Remix)
Prides- Cold Blooded
Amerie- 1 Thing
Twin Atlantic- Heart and Soul
MSMR- Fantasy (Nicita Remix)
Novo Amor- From Gold
Young Fathers- LOW
Kyla la Grange- Cut Your Teeth
Alt-J- Hunger of the Pines
Ed Sheeran- Don’t
Glass Animals- Black Mambo
MSMR- Hurricane (Goldroom Remix)
Kitten- Like A Stranger
Ed Sheeran- The Man
Raleigh Ritchie- Stringer Than Ever
Carnival Youth- Brown Eyes and All The Rest
Mooryc- Jupiter

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