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"Flake: a small, thin piece of something, especially if it has come from a surface covered with a layer of something" Cambridge Dictionary

It can also mean "someone who generally makes plans with you, promises to do things with or for you but can never seem to follow through." according to the Urban Dictionary - and others, which I hope doesn't apply to me, although I am often guilty of making resolutions, or planning projects, that never seem to happen. Which is why I try to write such vows down. It somehow makes it more likely that I will do as I tell myself to do.

Really it's just another word to signal a bits and pieces post. Little things I see here and there. And already I have been diverted from my path, because when I looked for a suitable picture I was confronted with heaps of pictures of cornflakes - which as we all know - well sort of - were:

"Invented by John Harvey Kellogg, a pro-abstinence campaigner who deliberately created food that was as bland as possible in order to curb sexual arousal, the cornflake can seem an uninspiring cereal to eat in 2021." Stuart Heritage/The Guardian

Those words begin an article in which Stuart Heritage gives us 10 Ways with cornflakes, and mostly interesting ones that you might not have thought of like Cornflake baklava of which he says:

"There is something happily perverse about Kellogg’s themselves inventing ways to make cornflakes more enticing"

And then, after yesterday's post on the highways and byways of the internet I found myself, in the course of reading the article, diverted by something that merits a mini post all of its own.

Funeral potatoes

Potatoes at a funeral? Well in America, apparently yes. This seems to be a traditional dish:

"Funeral potatoes is a Midwestern dish made with hash browns or cubed potatoes, cheese, and canned cream soup. The casserole, which features a crunchy cracker or potato chip topping, gets its name from its place on the traditional after-funeral dinner table. It’s also common at picnics, potlucks, and all sorts of social gatherings." All Recipes

It sounds like one of those dishes that is very infra dig as they used to say. And obviously that particular version used cornflakes for the topping. Commoners food if you want to be snobby. But it gets sort of worse, because Stuart Heritage nominated  Fried mormon funeral potatoes as his very favourite of the cornflake recipes - he found:

"These are incredibly bad for you, but legitimately outstanding. Bacon, cream cheese, onion, sour cream and jalapeños are chucked into a food processor, then mixed with a combination of eggs, cheese, hash browns and cornflakes. Scoop out a ball, roll it in cornflakes and deep fry it. Try it, I dare you."

No wonder there is an obesity crisis in America - although honestly we would all probably love them.

Is Himalayan pink salt saltier?

In recent times I turned to Himalayan pink salt for my table salt grinder. Yes, I confess. It's prettier. As I started to use it though I found that it was somehow saltier than ordinary rock salt. How is this possible I wondered, or was it just me? Surely one salt can't be saltier than another. So today I investigated and found this from Medical News Today:

"As pink salt often has larger crystals than table salt, it technically contains less sodium per teaspoon. It also has a saltier flavor than table salt, meaning that a person can use less salt in a serving to achieve the same taste."

Less, and at the same time more. How can that be? Because the article goes on to say that ordinary salt has roughly the same amount of sodium chloride - the salt part - so I am still confused, because the general opinion does seem to be that it is saltier. A tantalising mystery.

It is also said to contain more minerals than other salt, and is therefore better for you. Yes it does have more but:

"As it contains up to 98 percent sodium chloride, this means that only around 2 percent is made up of these various trace minerals. Given the relatively limited quantities in which people normally consume salt, and the tiny quantity of these minerals in the salt, they are unlikely to provide any measurable or significant health benefits."

It does tend to be less highly processed than white salt however - it comes from the Punjab area of Pakistan - and so might be marginally better for you - less processing and therefore less added chemicals. But let's not forget that really the best salts all seem to be sea salt, not rock salt, and that you shouldn't have too much of it anyway, whatever sort it is.

Oh so pretty though. They make it into all sorts of things - candles, lamps, serving boards, bowls ...

Infusing vodka with leftover sweets (lollies)

Are there ever any leftover lollies? Well maybe at Easter or Christmas. Otherwise they get eaten, particularly if it's chocolate in this house. However, if you do have some, and also a bottle of vodka to hand - cheap vodka will do because: "the crude additives in most sweets will taint any subtleties of flavour" then add some to some vodka for a new drinking experience.

The words and the idea comes from Tom Hunt - The Guardian's leftovers man. Well no I think he heard of it from elsewhere. The article is full of ideas such as stem ginger in syrup plus a vanilla pod which:

"surprised by how delicious the result was, both neat and super-cold from the freezer and mixed with soda, ice and a wedge of lime."

He claims you can use any kind of sweet, and he does mention white chocolate, but I wonder. Maybe I should try it with some of the Ferrero Rocher balls that we have sitting between us in the evening. Neither of us like them all that much - somehow insubstantial I always find and the packaging is horrendous. But yes I should have a go. My son likes cocktails and things. Maybe he would appreciate it.

At the end of the article we are given a basic recipe:

50-200g sweets – for example stem ginger, toffee, marshmallows. Optional spices – vanilla, star anise, cloves, etc – all to taste. 75cl vodka, or another spirit (tequila, brandy or grappa, say)

Tip the sweets into a large glass bottle or jar (or a range of small reclaimed bottles and jars). Add any spice you think will work as a flavour combination, if you like, Then pour in the vodka to cover. Seal with a lid and leave to infuse for at least 24 hours. Check the flavour every day until you are happy with it, then store in the freezer, where it will keep for up to a year. Serve neat and super-cold or mix into a cocktail."

David worked in the Westminster pathology lab in between school and university for a while. He said they used to have parties drinking some of the absolute alcohol they had there. It sounds like they should have thrown in some lollies for extra flavour.

The best blue cheese in the world

And it's Australian - even Victorian. Specifically from Berry's Creek Gourmet Cheese at Fish Creek in Gippsland. I found this bit of information in the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival's newsletter. The award was given at the 2023 Dairy and Cheese Awards in England. Now where that ranks in the world of cheese I have no idea but the article did note:

Berrys Creek Gourmet Cheese was selected from among 5500 cheesemakers worldwide for the award of Supreme Specialist Artisan Cheesemaker, winning gold medals for each of the four blue cheeses it submitted to the awards held in Staffordshire. 

Surely the makers of Roquefort and Gorgonzola and the like were there, or was it beneath them? You can't buy it that easily though (if you like blue cheese that is), unless you frequent stores like Simon Johnson, although their website says that some IGA stores sell it. I'm sure various restaurants serve it and I'm also sure it's pricey. It does look beautiful though. We should be proud. Weirdly, they have not yet announced this feat on their website.

Spider sieves

At the end of one of her recent Guardian posts, Rachel Roddy had this to say:

"The utensil that changed my cooking life is my spider sieve which, after 15 years of service, has got two loose wires, so I need a new one. Also known as a kitchen wire spoon, it is multi-talented: for removing fried food from hot oil, skimming foam off broth and scooping pasta out of water, to go straight into sauce. Get one: it will change your life in pasta cooking."

I do have one, but only in recent years I confess. I also confess I have not used it for pasta as yet, but maybe I should. It was certainly very effective for gnocchi. I've also recently taken to using tongs to lift pasta out of the saucepan and into a sauce. That way you get some of the pasta water, which I have also only recently come to realise is a wonderful substance. Much healthier than cream and it does more or less the same job. Aldi have some big Chinese ones on sale now. The Chinese use them a lot too.

Stabby Cake

Tomorrow it's February 1st and before long all we shall be hearing about is Taylor Swift as she adds to her billions with her Era tour. Alas my granddaughters were not lucky in getting expensive tickets. I feel sad for them. It would have been an experience to remember for a lifetime. So here is my final item for today - Stabby Cake.

It was a cake featured in the video for a song called Blank Space. the video is actually a mini film and rather lush and extravagent - impossibly beautiful and decadent in fact. It's a bit too long to embed here, but the link will take you to it, and if you like Taylor Swift or fairly arty song videos give it a whirl. In some ways reminiscent of Kate Bush and Babushka. It tells a story of love gone wrong ending with various destructive rages from our Taylor, including the stabbing of this cake, from which a red liquid emerges.

I looked long and hard to see if this is a Taylor Swift original, or a halloween thing, or what? All to no avail. Let's just say it's all down to Taylor Swift. I also found it hard to find a recipe, but eventually I tracked down another video from a lady called Ann Reardon, in which she shows you how to make it. Basically it's a sandwiched, shaped, sponge cake on a white chocolate base with a white chocolate kind of basin on top in which you put a fruit sauce, before topping with another piece of white chocolate. Then you decorate it. So this is absolutely for someone who is into elaborate cakes. Not me. It would create a bit of a stir though.


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