Janice of Farmersgirl Kitchen nominated me to take part in a blog hop to talk about why I write this week.  A blog hop is a fairly new phenomenon designed to help everyone discover new blogs and develop the sense of community out there in cyberspace.  

Kinda like taking a big fat cake ’round to your new neighbours to break the ice and start the getting to know you process up and running.  You are tagged, write your response to a few questions then tag two more bloggers to take the baton forward.

Thanks, Janice – it’s been a challenge to write this post but I’m really pleased you asked me.  My little blog is growing, slowly but surely as time goes by. It’s taken time to build what you see today which is what I like to think of as my creative outlet. I bake because the artist within loves to create and I think there is no more beautiful a medium than flour, sugar, butter and eggs.

Why do I write?

dsc_0039For a long time, I yearned for my voice to be heard in my real life. I felt invisible and bypassed in all but one area and that was the food I made and ate. It started the conversation with people from every possible walk of life and connected us in a way I believe no other interest can.

As a natural born shy boots, it took time but eventually I found my voice and with a little encouragement from my friends, I took the plunge and started a blog. A waxing lyrical Piscean, I’m almost pathologically passionate as well as hopelessly dreamy so it was only a matter of time before that spilled out into cooking, baking, drawing, photography and then writing.

I was never going to be “just” a scientist but actually, making room for the medic within has meant things like English language and creative writing skills have not had their due attention in my life so far. Writing (nay blogging in it’s entirety) will always be a work in progress but I love it and won’t stop practising.

As the little ray of sunshine Adriene says, it’s about the process, not the result.

What am I working on?

Have you noticed I don’t tend to let on what I’m working on in the kitchen? I fear giving it away for free, excuse the crude connotation, would mean you lovely folk may not want to read about it here!

It was a hard habit to develop at first as when I love something it’s almost impossible to stop me talking about it; my instinct being to shout about it to my friends and get hopefully get them enthusiastic enough to try it too. That being said, I can let you in on my ideas if not specific forthcoming recipes.

I’m inspired by my slow cooker and am creating recipes to use it more plus my cookbook addiction knows no bounds so I have plenty of titles next to my reading chair right now. Jamie Oliver’s Comfort Food, Miranda Gore Browne’s Bake Me A Cake As Fast As You Can and the long-awaited Ottolenghi Plenty More are being thumbed over and over and cooked from. Along with a copy of Olive magazine and a wifi enabled device, there is a world of inspiration at my fingertips – especially as I need to start creating gluten-free recipes for my newly Coeliac Daddums.

I recently dug out a cookbook I’ve “written” myself over the years too and plan to revisit its recipes and get them on here in due course – vintage JoJo, if you will.  I also have a couple of foodie trips to London ahead of me over the next month and a winter holiday in the sun later in the year so who knows what recipes I’ll come up with. If you are thinking it’s a real surprise what my newest blog post is then be reassured, I’m in the same gravy boat!

How does my blog differ from others of its genre?

dsc_0470I think my blog is different because it’s constantly evolving with me. If you care to read or even flick through in chronological order, you’ll see what I mean. For instance, I had a huge chip on my shoulder about my photography in the beginning and felt my limited capabilities were holding me back. So I read up, learnt from friends and eventually Hungry Hubby gave me a DSLR when I graduated medical school and I work really hard on not making the same mistakes over and over again!

The aim is each photo is a teeny bit better than the last. I really love to talk about and show the process of making things in my kitchen – I’m carving out my own style with each post. It’s never about food styling for me (did I even need to point that out?!); it’s just about me creating in my kitchen. I want you to see how I achieved the final result so you can feel confident having a go yourself.

You’ll see how my worktops are groaning with kitchen kit, our cereals boxes and sacks of pasta stay put during my “shoots” and baby Broo my beloved little monkey buddy watches over me from a splatter-safe distance as that’s how I cook every day. I’m Monica-clean but do tend to live in a clutter-filled life, although said clutter regularly gets moved and tidied away almost on an infinite loop.

Whilst it is an ultimate truth that there is nothing new under the sun, it’s not to say you shouldn’t feel empowered to experiment in your own kitchens and bring recipes to life which bring joy and happiness to those you love in life. My philosophy is once you’ve read enough of other peoples recipes, baked a few reasonable cakes and felt the “I could make this better next time” itch, then just do it – have a go, create.

Release the shackles on your baking ingredients cupboard and see what happens when you fiddle with proportions, substitute ingredients or adopt a new technique or two.  For me, it’s about letting daylight in on the magic and encouraging folk to have a go, whilst sharing a tale or two about life down at the Apple Chapel with my Hungry Hubby.

How does my writing process work?

Blogging is a wonderful little hobby but man alive is it time-consuming! It must take something like 3-4 hours to get a straightforward post together, some of the ones most dear to my heart have taken a couple of days in total. First, comes the recipe creation phase – a completely unspecified length of time that could be an hour or it may have been something I’ve worked on my whole life before getting it to a point I’m willing to share it.

Next, I cook or bake it, photographing furiously along the way. I edit the photos as soon after eating it as possible and in one go so I can recall what I did and why all the time thinking about how the taste will translate to the written word.

Once I sit down to physically write, I will have mentally already laid out the images I’m most happy with and “written” the post in my head before the keyboard tapping begins. Which means that the writing portion is actually the fastest bit – all the editing is done pre-emptively bar a few moments of scanning and double checking just before I hit “publish”.

At first, I had real flight of ideas, pressure of speech, of course, er enthusiastic use of the exclamation mark but as these few years have gone by I think I’m right in saying the pace has slowed and it feels more like a cosy chat on a comfy couch with a coffee than a happy hardcore rave with flaming sambuca shooters.

A classic Victoria Sponge cake

As for my nominations…

First, let’s hear from an old friend but a new blogger – Joost aka The Vegetable Chopper (doesn’t that make him sound like a superhero?! He kinda is when it comes to all things vegetarian, curry or bread related). Second, we’ve got to hear from Nancy of Gotta Get Baked – she is absolutely hilarious, her photography is enviable in the extreme and she touched my heart talking when she spoke of how tough it was when she became the thing she’d worked so hard for but then found it so very hard (in her case a lawyer). I totally “get” her and think you should go see what she’s all about, too x

And to finish I will, of course, leave you with a recipe – finally, I’ve conquered my baking nemesis the Victoria Sponge!  It took a whole lot of experiments but I’ve finally produced a traditional Victoria Sponge I’m not ashamed to share my recipe for 😀

A Practically Perfect Victoria Sponge
Servings: 8
: 142 kcal
Author: Just Jo
  • 4 large eggs mine weighed exactly 9oz
  • Equivalent weight in caster sugar* self raising flour and butter
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
To fill
  • 250 ml double cream softly whipped
  • Half a jar of jam I used my Bing cherry jam
  1. Line the bottom of two 8 inch round, nonstick sandwich tins but don’t grease them – it helps with the rise.
  2. Preheat the oven to 170 ° C. I like to cook for slightly longer on a lower temp or your cakes will peak and maybe even catch around the edges if too hot with this relatively high sugar proportioned cake.
  3. Beat the butter and sugar for several minutes until very light and fluffy – with golden caster sugar keep going until you can’t feel any crystals of sugar if you rub your fingers together with some of the mixture as it is more granular than regular caster sugar.
  4. Beat in the vanilla extract.
  5. Crack in the eggs and sift over the flour, baking powder and salt then beat in gently until just combined. It will be a thick mixture. This is almost an “all in one” method but I find you just don’t get the volume if you don’t cream the butter and sugar separately before adding all the rest ingredients all in one go.
  6. Divide between the tins and here’s the bit you will have to have some faith over as I’ve trialled it a lot and it really works but sounds odd. Spread the mixture up the sides of the tin so that it almost touches the top at the sides but it caved out in the centre – like an upside down volcano with only the thinnest scraping of batter on the very bottom middle of the tin. It will melt and cook evenly and very pleasingly flat.
  7. Pop in the oven on the middle shelf or ever so slightly lower if you can. Bake for 25-30 minutes until a skewer comes out clean, the middle bounces back and the top is beautifully brown and flat.
  8. Cool on a rack for 20 minutes in the tins – this is important as the cake needs to settle and firm up a little or risk your very light and fluffy, airy cake collapsing whilst still hot. Run a plastic knife around the edges of the tins and unmould when just warm and finish cooling on the rack this time out of their tins.
  9. Sandwich with whatever filling you like – this one is softly whipped double cream and homemade Bing cherry jam (recipe here on my blog) 

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