Monday, 30 April 2012


Back in December for the Little House Christmas Party, I made a cherry crumble cheesecake. Being Christmas, the shops were bare, and I ended up using a tinned cherry-flavoured pie filling in place of the cherry and jam layer which should have gone between the cheese and cake bits of the dessert. It turned out just as tasty, but because I had a weeee panic in Co-Op at the time, I ended up buying two tins of the stuff on account of not really being sure of how much I would need. As you might expect, until about seven o'clock yesterday evening I still had a tin left over, and was fairly dubious as to whether or not I would ever end up actually using it.

But then the rainy Sunday night-induced cake yearn came in. I had a quick browse through Dan Lepard's Short & Sweet and settled on making his Cherry Polenta Pudding, on the basis that I could probably cobble together most of the ingredients, and actually use up that tin of pie filling in the process. As the cooking process commenced, it began to dawn on me that I was lacking rather more of the ingredients than I had initially anticipated. First, there was the issue of butter which, fortunately, was happily alleviated by the addition of Lurpak Spreadable. Then, it became apparent that I had neither milk nor ground almonds, so up went the polenta content and, in case it ended up being too dry, I added an extra egg. By this point my cooking had basically descended into chaos, the egg being a rather last minute edition, the kitchen drawers refusing to open/close and the fact that I somehow managed to burn myself whilst attempting to wash up part way through. When, after half an hour or so, the cake not only baked all the way through but actually tasted fucking delicious, I was extremely relieved. I would almost go as far as to say that this recipe is actually worth buying tinned pie filling for. Seriously.

100g butter (as stated above, I used Lurpak Spreadable. I don't know whether this is actually butter.)
200g sugar (I used an amalgamation of 2 parts caster sugar, to 1 part demerara and 1 part light muscavado, since I didn't have enough of any of them to make up the full amount.)
3 eggs
150g polenta (incidentally, left over from this)
75g flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tin of cherry flavour pie filling
  • Preheat your (fan) oven to 180ºC (non-fan 160ºC)
  • Grease and line a tin. Springform, maybe? 23cm maybe?
  • Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs. Whisk more.
  • Mix in polenta, flour (sifted) and baking powder, then fold in pie filling until you get a ripple effect
  • Spread into tin and bake for around 35-40 minutes.
Eat as quickly as heat permits, maybe with cream, custard or ice cream; although if you've already resorted to this recipe, chances are you won't have any of it!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012


Hello friends! I'm back! I hope you've been keeping busy. It's been relatively quiet in the Little House of late, largely due to the fact that I didn't have a day off for the best part of a month. But my internship's finished, the days are getting longer and I'm no longer a hermit. We even went to London last Saturday to see the David Shrigley exhibition at the Southbank! 

As anyone who has ever met me - even fleetingly - can vouch, one of my favourite pastimes is forcefully imposing my music taste on others. With it being Record Store Day this Saturday, I thought I'd bring the two together in the name of celebrating my favourite shop, which has had a massive influence on my interest in music. If you're after a proper list, check out this brilliant map for stores around Greater Manchester, and this nationwide one on the Record Store Day website.

Before we were old enough to wander round Manchester, Stockport precinct was the stuff that dreams were made of. When the History Cafe opened on Prince's Street, I remember sitting by the upstairs window next to the battered drum kit and records they used to 'decorate' the walls with, drinking a mocha and thinking I was the absolute shit. These jaunts around coffee shops were also coupled with tentative rummages through the CDs on offer at such Stopfordian institutions as Woolworths, WH Smith's and HMV which, admittedly, usually turned up pretty miserable results (Travis, anyone?); the only exception being the now-defunct and sorely missed Music Zone. By the age of about 14, it became patently clear to me that, if I was going to get hold of the music I really wanted, I'd have to go the extra seven miles north.

Me, in my younger days.
I'm excited for the future of music.
Manchester is still the biggest city I've ever lived in - it's second in size only to London and Birmingham - so you can imagine how intimidating it was when we first ventured out. We soon got to know its mean streets though - learning to avoid Market Street and making a new home for ourselves in the café on the top floor of Afflecks Palace, before later migrating to the more mature charms of Night & Day (as immortalised in the I Am Kloot song). When I eventually moved to Sheffield five years later, the thing I missed the most were the record shops; in particular, Vinyl Exchange. Based on Oldham St. (RIP Bridge St. branch!), they sell vinyl (duh), CDs, DVDs etc, but they don't have the cases out on the floor - just small plastic envelopes with the title of the record on a piece of card. It's brilliant, because you can literally grab a stack and flick through - no awkward leaning over/shifting around/having to pull out every single case because you can't tell what it's supposed to be or who it's by. And because a lot of the stuff they sell are promo copies and/or second-hand, it's all really cheap too. My CD collection is still at my parent's house (s'all been copied onto the computer innit), but I'd estimate that roughly half of them were bought at Vinyl Exchange.

Independents work because they know exactly what their customers want to buy. It's so much easier to pick up music you've never heard of but can't wait to play when the whole store is filled with artists that you love. It's also weirdly satisfying to have something to show for your music collection - a bit like a photo album I suppose. Whilst being able to download mp3s straight onto my phone is undoubtedly incredibly convenient, it's not really the same as spending a whole afternoon pottering round a few shops and arguing about which record you'll play first when you get home.