Saturday, 27 March 2010

Whip It: Pre Release Speculation

On April 7th, Drew Barrymore's directorial debut, Whip It, will be released in the UK. Unlike what it might suggest, Whip It is actually the tale of Bliss (Ellen Page), a teenager who pleases her mother (Marcia Gay Harden) by entering beauty pageants. She takes up roller derby and takes on the name Babe Ruthless. Thanks to her skating skills, the Hurl Scouts - who always come last - turn their fortunes around and steadily climb up the league. However, her mother eventually finds out about her new-found passion.

Now, all of this sounds strangely predictable - you might think that this is just going to be one of those films where a teenage girl finds her place in the world, hits a little bump in the road and then it all turns out just fine in the end. Well, maybe not. According to some reports, it's not going to be as straightforward as it sounds. Well, any film that combines a teenage drama, a romance and full-contact sport has to has some twists in it right? Right? Well, we'll just have to wait and see.

Barrymore's directorial skill is apparently a highlight of the film, as she always knows the best place to put the camera and the most effective way to shoot the high-speed roller-derby scenes. Ellen Page is also likely to put in another great performance - she lights up pretty much every film she's in (okay, I'm a bit of a fan, then). Plus it features the talents of Kristen Wiig, a very funny woman who livened up Saturday Night Live and was oddly hilarious in Adventureland (even though she was only in it now and then!). All in all, Whip It looks like it could be a great night out - watch this space.

Denim, Denim and Even More Denim

Fashion industry insiders have predicted that one of the big trends coming up in the next season will be denim (but I guess you've already worked that out). But come on, do we really need another coming of denim?

Remember when everyone seemed to go around in denim jackets and jeans (oversized too, I might add) and it was all really tacky and awful? Well I think that's what some insiders are aiming for with this re-emergence people. I'm already seeing some poor souls walking around in denim jackets that are at least two sizes too big for them, frankly making them look closer to a beer barrel than a human being. I dread to thin what might happen if this is combined with a re-emergence of stonewashed jeans in the (hopefully not) near future.
Of course we will ge a lot more denim dresses too, as shown in my pic above - this will range from shapeless balloons like item E above, to more classic designs with a denim "look" rather than using the actual material. Topshop have already had a few dresses of this nature in over the past few months, the best of which (this is, the best if I really had to choose one) being a short dress with shaped cups around the breast area, giving it a more structured, fashionable shape.
But I don't think I'll be going in for any of this denim nonsense - it could all go horribly wrong, and I don't think anyone should be subjected to that. Be careful if you want to follow this trend.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Baking: Cornish Pasties

Makes about 8

Difficulty: Medium


For the pastry:

  • 450g of plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 120g of unsalted butter
  • 2 free-range egg yolks
  • Water
  • 1 beaten egg for glazing
For the filling:

  • 50g of swede, finely chopped
  • 150g of potato, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 50g of carrots, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 50g of onion, finely chopped
  • 100g of lean beef mince
  • 1 tablespoon of parsley (or more, depending on how herby you want the nix to be)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. For the pastry, rub the flour, baking powder, salt and butter together with your fingers until it looks like breadcrumbs
  2. Add the egg yolks and mix in until it looks like breadcumbs again
  3. Gradually mix in the water, a tablespoon at a time, until the ingredients come together in a dough
  4. Roll the dough into a ball, put cling film over the top of the bowl and then place in the fridge for an hour
  5. Meanwhile, for the filling, bring a pan of salted water to the boil (the pan might need to be a decent size to get all of the vegetables in it)
  6. When it is boiling, add the swede, potato and carrot and cook for 4-5 minutes until tender
  7. Drain the pan well
  8. In a separate pan, brown the beef mince and then mix in the onions
  9. Add the tender vegetables and stir around again
  10. Season well with salt and pepper and add as much parsley as you want
  11. Take the mix off the heat
  12. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4
  13. If an hour has passed, roll out the pastry on a clean, floured work surface
  14. Cut medium sized discs out of the pastry - using a saucer as a guide is the easiest way to do this
  15. Place some of the filling in the middle of the discs - don't go overboard or you won't be able to close up the pastry!
  16. Brush the edge of the discs with some of the beaten egg
  17. Draw the edges of the pastry together and then crimp them with your fingers to seal it up (see the photo above to get the idea of the effect this gives)
  18. After doing this, brush the pastry with the beaten egg to give it a golden glaze
  19. Place on to a baking tray and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden-brown

Baking: Coffee Streusel Cake

Difficulty: Medium

For the Sponge:
  • Butter, for greasing
  • 275g of plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon of baking powder
  • 75g of caster sugar (this isn't a lot and the cake isn't sweet, so if you want to add more to suit your sweet tooth then go ahead!)
  • 150ml of milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 100g of butter, melted and cooled (it's very important that the butter has properly cooled!)
  • 2 tablespoons of instant coffee mixed with one tablespoon of boiling water (or add more coffee if you want the taste to be stronger)
  • 50g of almonds, chopped
  • Icing sugar for dusting

For the topping:
  • 75g of self-raising flour
  • 75g of demerara sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 teaspoon of ground mixed spice
  • 1 tablespoon of water
  1. Grease a 23cm/9 inch loose-bottomed roud cake tin with a little butter and line the base with baking paper
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5
  3. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl and then stir in the caster sugar
  4. Whisk the milk, eggs, melted butter and coffee mixture together and pour into the dry ingredients
  5. Add the chopped almonds and mix lightly together until a cake mix is formed
  6. Spoon the mixture into the tin - don't put it into the oven yet!
  7. To make the topping, mix toether the SR flour and demerara sugar
  8. Add the butter and mix together with your fingers until the mix is crumbly
  9. Sprinkle in the ground mixed spice and the water
  10. Bring the mixture together into loose crumbs - this is the tricky bit, and you might have to use a knife. Don't worry if the mix is too stodgy, just keep adding small amounts of SR flour until the mix is less stodgy. Mine wasn't really dry, but as long as it's a little crumbly in texture it should be fine
  11. Sprinnkle the topping evenly over the surface of the cake mixture in the tin
  12. Bake the cake in the pre-heated oven for one hour - keep an eye on the topping and if it's browning too quickly, cover it loosely with tin foil
  13. After it is baked, leave to cool thoroughly in the tin, then turn out - don't forget to take the greaseproof paper off the bottom of the cake!
  14. Dust with icing sugar to finish

FF + iPod = Hours of Amazingness

About two weeks ago SquareEnix - the company behind the Final Fantasy series - made the first two games in the franchise available to buy in the iTunes store. This prompted a lot of comments like "I had no idea these were coming to iPod" and "this is the best game I've ever bought for my iPod". It also had some angry, rather ungrateful people saying "£5.49? What a rip off!" Well, consider that these games take hours - possibly 50+ hours - to complete, and then think about the amount of time it takes to complete any other games on the store. I think that might just be value for money, if you stick with it.

Anyways, it was a pleasant surprise: I bought them as soon as I could get my hands on a gift card (hey, you wouldn't dare let me loose on there, would you?) and neither of them have been a disappointment. Some people have complained about the controls but I think they're seamless - my only criticism is that some people might find the battle and menu text a little too small but it's definitely not unreadable. The improved save feature lets you save your progress whenever, wherever (except in battle) so you could even just have a quick battle or two when waiting somewhere and not lose any data. This is definitely not coming off my App List for a loooong time.