Photo of the Week: Biscuits

My Instagram picture for today. As part of my reading challenge for this year, I’ve been trying to read more often, and I took the extra day we were given (leap year, woo!) to read a couple of chapters of A Conspiracy of Alchemists (long overdue reading), and I’m getting back into this Steampunk, and it’s giving me ideas for editing ‘H’.

Also with some snacks for today. Lotus biscuits. Would you believe these are vegan? Yum!

biscuits_AlexB

 

Photo of the Week: Celebrations

I celebrated The Boyfriend’s 30th birthday with a visit up North to see him, and we together went into the tea room Betty’s in York for lunch, which was a lovely occasion. He had the afternoon tea, and I had the below, a lovely Christmas-themed rosti of bacon, chicken, and cranberry sauce. It was very scrumptious. Fancy luncheon food. To top off the celebration, we had pink champagne (not pictured 😉 ).

AlexB_Rostimmm

Chilli Sweet Potato Fishcakes

The great thing about fishcakes is that their integral recipe and cooking is the same, but one can experiment with different fish and different spices or veg to get completely different flavours and a dish to suit many palates. Because sweet potato is a warm, flavoursome starch anyway, it pairs well with medium-heat chillies that don’t overpower the soothing flavours of the potato. Plus, sweet potato is filled with nutritional vitamins, so it can be perfect for young mouths that have a picky side. (I should know!)

~

Ingredients:

Two Haddock fillets

One large red chilli of medium heat

An onion

One sweet potato

An egg

Plain flour (for dusting)

Pepper (and salt if desired) for seasoning

~

AlexB_fishcakes2

Cut the sweet potato into even-sized chunks of medium size. Bring a half-filled pot of water to the boil. When the water is boiling, cook the sweet potato chunks for about 2 – 4 minutes to soften them.

Rub the haddock (both sides) with pepper and/or salt and/or a light seasoning of your choice. Stronger spices like turmeric or cumin might add too many flavours to the fishcakes, so I kept from adding anything more.

Put the fish into a colander and cover with foil. I used pre-smoked haddock for an additional layer of flavour, but any haddock would work here. Turn the heat in the pot down and heat the fish over the sweet potato for 8 – 10 minutes or until both the fish and the potato are cooked. Once cooked, remove the fish from the colander and set them aside; and drain the potatoes in the colander, then return the potatoes to the pot and leave them to steam dry for a minute.

Mash the sweet potato in a bowl. Now some recipes encourage mashing around the sides of the bowl to help the mash cool, but I found that moving the potatoes and fish from bowl to bowl was enough to help it cool, so I could mash straight away.

Remove any skin from the fish and flake it into the mash. With a dash more pepper/chosen light seasoning, start to mix the fish and the potato together.

Dice the onion and the chilli, and fry together in a pan for about four minutes, or until the onion is browned and fragrant. Put the pan aside to cool. If the onions and chilli don’t cool, there is no issue but with the possibility of them being too hot to handle when hand-mixing/folding the fishcake mixtures.

Once cool or when ready, add the onions and the chilli into the bowl fishcake mixture. Crack an egg into the mixture. This acts as a binding agent for the fishcakes. I suspect it could be left out, particularly with the softness the sweet potato gives to the cakes, but you might be left with crumblier mixture. Then by hand mix the fishcake ingredients, making sure all ingredients are folded in. Have fun doing this. 😉 You will get messy hands.

Mould the fishcakes into flattened spheres of about two cm thick. I dusted a plate with flour and dusted both sides of the fishcakes individually. I believe this helps the final browning, but is by no means necessary to the fishcakes. Transfer to an oiled frying pan to cook. For efficiency, I used the same pan in which I fried my onions earlier. Now I managed to fit all of my fishcakes in a medium-large sized frying pan. I didn’t plan for my mixture to make four, but since it did, I wanted to be able to fry them altogether to save me time. However, if you have the time, I wouldn’t recommend this, particular for thicker fishcakes, as it is difficult to flip them or check sides when the cakes are rubbing shoulders.

Cook until each side of the fishcakes are browned, and serve immediately on a bed of salad. Or wait until they are cool and freeze/refrigerate until later.

Enjoy! ^_^

Doesn't look very glamorous, but it was certainly yummy.

Doesn’t look very glamorous, but it was certainly yummy.

Keeping Up With Miss Alexandrina (Again)

Sorry for my absence from the blog for a few days. I moved into my new shared accommodation, and, as well as adjusting to that, we did not have WiFi and still haven’t got some.

However, this does allow me some writing and reading time – though the latter sometimes eats into the former, a first for me, who, she admits, prefers the former.

I finished EXTRAORDINARY MEANS, and enjoyed it more than I thought. Even the ending wasn’t too sad. I haven’t been getting along with SPLINTERED for some reason; I keep finding myself having to reread to understand character motives and general plot progression. The pace is too fast for my liking.

I’ve started Dexter’s THE SECRET OF ANNEXE 3 – because a) the book was there (‘there’ thusly being in a charity shop for £2), b) why not?, and c) guilt-free leisure Morse + Oxford + mystery fiction. I’m also getting along with – and by that I mean I munched through and finished a couple of days ago – THE WEREDOG WHISPERER, which I got on sale last year, but (as is with me and ebooks) started it but didn’t carry on. I love the voice and the spunk, so it was another easy read.

I wonder why I was attracted to mysteries in the first place… 😉 

In the writing stakes, I am doing moderately. After a slow and somewhat trepidacious start to my new novella (codenamed ASB303), I have, as of writing, so far achieved just over 10,000 words for CampNaNoWriMo this year. Considering that it’s the eighth today, and I ought to be writing 2,000 per day if a) I’m to finish this novella this month, and b) achieve the goal of 50,000, I’m fearfully behind.

At the same time, though, there are times when I try to get into the writing mood and cannot. We’ll have to see. For the time-being, I should be getting on with CampNaNoWriMo. I’m writing a foody kind of scene, where my main character are walking through the stalls of a circus.

Yet, the circus held more than the paraphernalia one might purchase, especially for May. Foodstuffs, if one afforded it – and Summer could, what with free luncheons she earnt as a junior academic – lay in their eyesight, too. Candyfloss, a new treat of spun strings of raw sugar, the size of one’s head. Pork pies stuffed to the brim in goo-filled delicacy. Egg-custard tarts with cinnamon laced on the top.

7 Quick Takes About Contemplating Consciousness, Birthday Business, and Anticipating Arrivals

Oh, look ^^ alphabetic alliteration. 😛 Another Friday has crept upon me, but I am glad it is the end of the week. 7 Quick Takes is hosted by This Ain’t the Lyceum, and you can see the rest of the blog-hop participants there.

It's Friday, so that means Seven Quick Takes! @emily_m_deardo

~1~

Exams: 2 down, 3 to go.

~2~

General poll for anyway passing who has an opinion: what is consciousness and how does it link to the concept of the mind?

Philosophy of Mind is proving a trickier module to revise, as I find myself falling into contemplation at every little question of the state of consciousness and how it ties into the actual question most philosophers are asking of whether and how the mind (or the mental) and brain (or the physical) are linked. I actually finally got myself to settle by asking my neighbour, who studies Systems Engineering and Cybernetics, and he gave me a satisfyingly empirical-evidence based answer that also involved squids. That will do nicely.

For now at least.

~3~

In Chamber Choir, we are cracking through Mozart’s Coronation Mass in C. Yesterday was quite a testing rehearsal for me, though, as I wasn’t on the game and got called out for at least three faults – and not even on the movement I didn’t know and was sight-reading on the spot. With my mental condition, it is moments like those that shock my confidence, which is only just beginning to revive me. I keep telling myself that others’ reassurance is irrelevant to how I view my singing, but after years of bullying for being a singer, I feel like I need to hide behind a crowd, rather than indulge my desires to be soloistic.

~4~

The Coronation Mass, as it is so elegant and summery. My personal favourite movement is the fourth, the Sanctus. I seem to have a soft spot for Sanctus movements in big choral pieces.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_NP_z6LmscI

~5~

For my birthday week, I’ve actually not being doing that much. Revision as a priority, and then I joined the rest of the Swing Dance committee for a few drinks after our Weds lesson, as it coincided with my birthday. It was nice, and I wouldn’t really have wanted to do much in any case. I am 20, and it is inconsequential.

~6~

The Boyfriend is joining me this weekend – squee – and we’re attending a Swing Dance workshop focusing on footwork and British Collegiate style variations. It’s an all-afternoon thing, so I’m a little nervous, but it should be a fun break, as I know most of the other attendees. *looks to the sky* I will leave my room! 😛

~7~

I’m also doing a really mature thing and cooking dinner tonight. I have a frittata recipe I tested out (for one) last week, and it worked pretty nicely. I will be tweaking the recipe when I do it for two, but I reckon I can come up with something nice either way. Fingers crossed! I think one of the biggest misconceptions about university students is that we are always low on food (I always have too much food) and (okay, two biggest misconceptions) that we somehow fail at cooking or don’t like it. I definitely fall into the contrary of that.

Thanks for reading. See you next week!

Beautiful People: Greetings to Patience

I’m still editing – and trying to balance the two academic and creative meanings of ‘revision’ – so I have no fully-formed character to present for you. Instead, I’m going to have a new-new character for this month’s great questions of the Beautiful People tag (hosted by Cait and Sky). Patience (surname-not-yet-created) is the MC and a maid in one of the steampunk stories I want to write and of which I have a couple of scenes.

  1. What is their secret desire?

Although she outwardly strives for adventure and wouldn’t say no to the job of travelling into the atmosphere, Patience is actually quite shy and very afeared towards the monster aboard The Mallard cosmic train. Her secret desire is probably a simple one: to have a family and not be a servant her entire life, even if the alternative is ‘serving’ as a mother (!). Thus, it’s natural that she forms a bond with similar-minded family-orientated Milo so quickly. It’s not insta-love (in which I don’t believe), but I have seen this sort of bond form in real life, so I know it is possible to transfer to characters.

  1. What is the best and brightest moment they experience during the story?

Probably kissing Milo. I mean, getting to travel to space is awesome and all, but to meet a fellow mind and to go through mystery with him is something that Patience will never experience in her life again. Hair flowing against the backdrop of stars…

File:Messier 5 Hubble WikiSky.jpg

Messier 5 stars, as seen through the Hubble telescope. Wikipedia commons

 

  1. What are the emotional places your characters are afraid to go to?

As an orphaned only-child, Patience can be quite shielded at times. Not one of those dramatic leading ladies who struggles to bond because her parents were unfair or abusive or, conversely, over-soft, but nevertheless someone who doesn’t share her mind so much when it comes to serious matters. Her parents were not overly-strict or overly-caring, so she appears to not miss them so much. I think she could open her heart to her childhood, though – not be afraid to admit that she wasn’t a working girl her entire life.

  1. Is there a place/city/room where they will never go?

Patience will probably never get to travel. At least: to the other side of Earth. Even when her contract with The Mallard ends, she will probably go back into service (unless Queen Victoria enlists another such contraption) and thus will be confined to England. Patience is not a lady’s maid – hence why she was dispensable yet reliable – so she doesn’t get to travel to other Earth countries with her mistress. I suppose that answers the question, even though I haven’t really thought out much of Patience’s ‘backstory’ yet.

  1. If they were permanently leaving town, what would they easily throw out? What would they refuse to part with?

She easily throws out her outfits and miscellaneous bits and bobs that she held on to when she worked in her household. These little items – like an acorn seed her first sweetheart gave her – keep her sane on nights when her family are demanding, but when Patience realises that she has a chance to move into a new field of work as a server on The Mallard she doesn’t see the need for trinkets of nature and fabric. Will she reject this move? That’s a question I’ll be asking myself.

Patience has a necklace that belonged to her mother, a small silver cross. She never takes it off, even though it gets broken over the course of the novella. She’d definitely refuse to part with it, due to sentimental value, and her parents’ once-religiosity. It has past and a kind of fortune.

Sweet Dreams

  1. What do they want (consciously and tangibly)?

Patience would rather like to spend some time at the seaside, perhaps trying fish delicacies and lending her hand at gutting the fish. She doesn’t want a fisherwoman’s life over being a maid to a small household, but she’d like to try something different for a while, as she’s getting a little bored of routine and safety. Figures.

  1. On the other hand: what do they need (on the emotional, subconscious level)?

Patience could probably do with some modest restraint. She’s not one of the sharper-tongued MCs I’ve written, but she still has an outspoken streak, even going so far as to question why her mistress sold a ring to pay for Patience to be one of the servers travelling to space.

  1. If they could change one thing about themselves, what would it be?

She doesn’t have the best self-confidence. I know Patience would like her mystery-solving skills to be better based on logic, when she doesn’t realise that she’s actually good at inference mystery and, well, snooping and silent wandering.

Nor, for that matter, does she have the best sense of humour. She’s a serious young woman– though, luckily, not to the point of being the straight man whom I wouldn’t be able to write.

  1. What is the most humiliating event of their life?

Being a servant, she has experience many humiliating moments. Her employers – well, her mistress – are rather demeaning, as was the way for servants. There were many life lessons she learnt about working in a busy household as she grew up, many slip-ups, literal and figurative.

  1. What things do they turn to when they need a bit of hope?

Back on Earth, Patience was friends with a younger maid, Marie, who, although lovely, was the lowest in the social hierarchy, and, as such, a bit of a drip. In orbit, however, Patience cannot turn to her absent friend, and she trusts no one but Milo onboard the lethal vessel. On the other hand, she is known to the driver for her love of almond cake and gingerbread pudding from the dining car.

Look, Cait, food for you! Hope you all enjoyed my Beautiful People post for March. I certainly learnt a lot about the backstory and past of my newest MC. Readers, don’t forget to check out the other writers who have participated in this month’s Beautiful People posting.