Monthly Archives: October 2013

pumpkin pie

Having carved two pumpkins, I thought it would be a waste to throw away the flesh, so yesterday afternoon I trawled the internet looking for the perfect pumpkin pie recipe.

This was not as easy as you might imagine. Most recipes I found use canned pumpkin, which is no good when the reason you’re making a pie is because you have lots of fresh pumpkin to use up.

So what I ended up doing was cobbling together various parts from several different recipes I found online and hoping for the best. I’m not sure whether this was a mistake, or whether it wouldn’t have made any difference in the end. (More on this later…)

I found a recipe using fresh pumpkin and some other ingredients I had in the cupboard, but it also used a shop-bought pastry case, and I wanted to make my own. So I used Jamie Oliver’s basic sweet shortcrust pastry recipe (adding some cinnamon to the pastry mix) to make a pastry case, which I then blind baked in the oven.

Once this was done, I made a pumpkin filling using a recipe I found online but have now lost. From what I can remember it was fresh pumpkin (which I blitzed in the microwave for five minutes and then blended), soft brown sugar, eggs, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and double cream. I didn’t quite have enough cream so I had to make it up to the right quantity by adding some semi-skimmed milk.

I then poured the pumpkin mixture into the pastry case and crossed my fingers that it would work.

Initially it seemed to be looking pretty good. The recipe said to bake for 35-40 minutes until the filling had puffed up a little around the outside but was still slightly jelly-like in the middle. So I gingerly poked the outside of the filling with my finger. It was fairly firm. So far, so good. Growing in confidence, I then poked the middle and made an unsightly hole in it! Unable to bear this blemish on the top of my pie, I took it out of the oven and broke the surface, spooning it all around until it looked fairly even again (although it was never going to be as perfectly even as it had been before I poked it!) and stuck it back in the oven for ten minutes.

When it came out, it smelled delicious. The whole kitchen was filled with a heady aroma of spices. Yum!

The problem is that pumpkin pie is served cold, so I had to wait for it to cool completely before I could eat it.

I decided to paint my nails, to physically restrain myself from touching the pie. This worked well, but the temptation was still overwhelming. (My mum also pointed out that this made it impossible for me to do any clearing up. Might have to use this tactic again.)

Eventually it was ready, and it looked like this:

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The verdict?

Meh…

I mean, it was OK. But it didn’t blow me away. So far I have only had one piece, which is just not like me at all.

I could blame my failure to just use one recipe and stick to it, or my various other unorthodox baking techniques. But actually, I think it is supposed to be more-or-less like this.

I think the main problem is that I just don’t really like pumpkin pie. Despite the fact that I doubled all the quantities of the spices to give it more flavour, it was just quite bland.

Does anyone else have the same problem with pumpkin pie? Should I give it another go?

(I would ask “Did I do something wrong?” but I think we’ve already established that I did lots of things wrong. I’m just not sure that doing it right would make much difference in this case.)

I’m pretty sure it’s just not my thing…

smashing pumpkins

This week I have some time on my hands, so I decided to get creative with Halloween pumpkins.

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I carved this one last night, and was pretty pleased with it. Sadly, when I woke up this morning the cat was leaning in towards the centre of the pumpkin. My brother referred to it as my “drunk cat”, which was a pretty accurate description.

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This one is tonight’s attempt, which worked a lot better as the design is more balanced on all sides.

What do you think?

learning in a foreign language

After a brief hiatus, I’m now back home. My week with Tamara and her children was fun and exhausting in equal measure, so I didn’t have any spare time to blog.

Although I was mostly supposed to be helping with baby Harry, it was great to be able to spend some time with Daisy, Tamara’s eight year old daughter from her first marriage. Daisy was five when I first met her, just after I’d moved to Paris, and last week was the first time I’d spent any decent amount of time with her since I left.

I really enjoyed playing the “cool auntie” figure (sadly my brother won’t be having kids any time soon, so I have no nieces or nephews of my own to spoil) and I think she enjoyed it too, as all her own aunts are much older than me. We went out shopping, and I even took her to get her ears pierced.

One of the things I love about spending time with Daisy is the hilarious things she says. For example, when we were in town one day:

Daisy: (extremely loudly) Is that a man or a woman?
Me: (whispering) It’s a man dressed as a woman. Don’t shout, it’s rude!
Daisy: (still very loudly) Is it for Halloween?
Me: No! Shhh!

Oh dear.

She also made me smile when she was talking about her grandfather.

Daisy: How old is your grandpa?
Me: He’s ninety.
Daisy: Ohh… lucky!
Me: What do you mean?
Daisy: Because yours is only ninety and you’re twenty-seven, and mine’s ninety-three and I’m only eight, so you get to spend more time with him!

How sweet is that? And as her grandfather is unlikely to live another twenty years, I can’t fault her logic.

But then a couple of hours later, Tamara said “Daisy, go and sit with Grandpa” and she said, “Oh Mum, do I have to? He’ll only start a long conversation about something!”

Hmmm.

One thing I’ve really noticed is how Daisy’s English has changed. When I first met her she sounded like any normal English five year old. But since then, she’s been doing her education in French, which means that her French pronunciation is amazing, but when she speaks in English she comes out with some odd phrases, such as “I’m so impatient to be next Thursday” instead of “I want it to be next Thursday” or “I can’t wait for next Thursday”, and “it’s not the good one” instead of “it’s not the right one”. She’s obviously learned phrases in French from her classmates and is translating them literally into English. She also knows a lot of words in French which she doesn’t know in English, and her spelling is a lot better in French because she’s never really learned to write in English.

Her younger brother is nearly one and a half, but he isn’t saying much in either language. (Although I did accidentally teach him to say bum… oops!) Tamara says she’s heard that bilingual children often take a bit longer to start speaking because they need more time to process both languages in their heads.

I find all this fascinating on an intellectual level, because I’m interested in linguistics and language acquisition, as well as the differences between English and French. But for me it’s also interesting for personal reasons, because if Olivier and I ever end up having kids together, they will grow up speaking English and French from birth, and they will be educated in the language of whichever country we happen to live in at the time.

I’ve always thought that children who grow up speaking more than one language are incredibly lucky, as it’s so much easier for them to learn languages as young children than it is for older children or adults. But until this week, I’ve never really given much thought to the potential disadvantages, particularly for a young child from one country being educated in another, and learning all their school subjects in their second language.

I’d love to hear more about other people’s experiences with this.