Saturday Special: Don’t Bother, It’s Nut-Ella Worth The Hassle

I’m going to be honest with you here.

You know that bit in ‘Liar, Liar’ where Jim Carrey is shouting at the judge and he goes “I HOLD MYSELF IN CONTEMPT, WHY SHOULD YOU BE ANY DIFFERENT?” – that was me after completing this god-forsaken task.  This is the stupidest recipe I’ve ever tried (apart from the vegan cheesecake… but we don’t speak of that dark time any more, it’s too painful).

Pinterest is a wonderful place – full of ideas for DIY, beauty, and especially recipes. One that kept popping up from people I follow is how to make your own Nutella; great, I thought, I could make a nutty chocolate spread with a different nut, since hazelnuts can be pricey, we always have almonds, and my brother doesn’t like hazelnuts. These recipes always say that there are other varieties of nuts that you can use, including almonds, so I decided that this would be the day I tried to make my own all-natural Nutella. More like nut-HELL-a, amirite?? Oh wait, I haven’t explained everything yet, that won’t make sense – it follows on from the recipe.

It’s a super simple recipe, to be fair. Two ingredients:

  • One cup ‘bittersweet chocolate chips’ (guys, dark chocolate chopped up will work fine too)
  • One cup almonds (or hazelnuts if you want)

 Lego jar optional.

Photo on 30-08-2014 at 11.40

 

And all you need is a food processor.  The impossibly simple steps, as guided by various websites, are:

  • Roast the nuts for about 5 minutes on a medium heat.
  • Take the still warm nuts and put them in the food processor or mini chopper, processing for 5-10 minutes – you might have to periodically stop to push the almonds down the side of the processor.
  • Once the consistency resembles a nut butter (think along the lines of smooth peanut butter), add the chocolate chips and and process again until it’s all combined completely.

 

So easy, right? WRONG.

Photo on 24-08-2014 at 18.45 #2

Here’s what they don’t tell you:

One cup of nuts is actually quite a lot, and nuts aren’t really all that cheap or low in calories – I should add that this recipe is touted as a ‘healthy’ and ‘clean’ version of Nutella. Calorie for calorie, a one tablespoon serving of this recipe is exactly the same as shop-bought Nutella.

‘Process for 5 to 10 minutes’? Pardon my French, but fuck the fuck off. Let me tell you something – if you’re in need of this ‘Nutella’ on short notice and you can’t go down the shops, you’d better have some kind of industrial strength food processor because the only thing that took 5 to 10 minutes were the breaks I had to take in order to let my mini chopper cool down and stop from over-heating. Yes, my friends, to give you an idea of how long it took for ONE CUP of almonds to process down into a nut butter consistency, I watched THREE episodes of Desperate Housewives (don’t judge me, don’t you dare judge me) and had to get my laptop charger (sure, that’s more to do with the battery-draining nature of Netflix, but it makes the whole thing more dramatic, doesn’t it?).  It stays in the crumby, powdery stage for absolutely ages, and it really doesn’t seem like you’re getting anywhere until after a really, really long time. I did some checking around before hand, plenty of people said that a mini-chopper would be fine, but they were obviously big fat liars with stupid faces because I would bet money on my mini chopper being able to process paving slabs into custard quicker than getting these almonds down to a nut butter.

 

Paving slabs would probably taste better, too

Paving slabs would probably taste better, too

 

Finally, just no. No. It’s not like Nutella.  You know that smooth, delicious, oh-god-if-I-eat-the-whole-jar-I’ll-regret-it-and-if-I-don’t-I’ll-regret-it-more, magically quality that Nutella has? Yeah this doesn’t have that. At all.

 

I want to formally apologise to you all, for letting you down by forsaking Nutella. And I want to apologise to Nutella. If a representative could please send me 100 jars as a means of communicating that they have accepted my apology, that’d be great.

 

@bythesheetstore

I also write stuff here and here

Guardians of the Galaxy review: Marvel’s latest chapter is not quite out of this world

Guardians of the Galaxy sees pilot/dudebro Peter Quill become the object of a manhunt when he steals an orb belonging to the feared Ronan the Accuser. When he finds out the orb has the potential to destroy millions of innocent lives, he teams up with a gang of outcasts to bring Ronan down.

After the deserved success of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, I was expecting big things from this, and it delivered on some fronts but not on others.

Quill and the gang are not well known, so there’s a strong sense of freedom to Gunn’s directing. He has been allowed to tell the kind of story he wants to tell without having to worry too much about pandying to the stalwart fans of the comics. He gets rid of the angst that we’ve come to expect from superhero movies lately, and the result is a fun and frothy space opera packed with wit (a throwaway semen joke is especially lol-worthy), but unfortunately that means moments we’re supposed to take seriously, like Drax’s pretty heartbreaking back story, tend to lose their edge.

Visually, it’s a treat.  Director James Gunn immerses you in his incredibly beautiful, bright and bonkers universe which you sort of wish actually existed. Like all good sci-fi movies, this has a water-tight, well established world with it’s own rules, peoples…and alcohol, realised in great detail. Plus, the CGI is seamless and it’s never not cool to see hundreds of one-person spaceships get fried.

Quill’s a player, but Chris Pratt is loveable enough to stop him from being a complete douchecanoe. Gamora is a brilliant female character, which we know Zoe Saldana excels at; but Rocket and Groot (Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel respectively) steal the show as the trigger-happy, oddball double act. Most-surprising performance goes to former wrestler Dave Batista. WWE stars can be cringe on the big screen, but if The Animal is serious about a film career, it could take off.

Marvel need to put in work on their villains, though.  WHERE IS THE THREAT? Lee Pace and Karen Gillan are solid actors who were wasted in this movie. Nebula is badass, but only briefly; and while Pace gets a delightfully grim murder scene early on, his potentially defining moment gets invalidated in seconds, albeit in a funny way.

Guardians of the Galaxy is n bombastic popcorn movie with an 80s vibe that people old enough to remember Spaceballs first coming out will appreciate. Those who don’t might feel like they’ve missed something – and I include myself in that. I grew up with Discmans and The Backstreet Boys. Maybe it’s a generational thing? Or maybe my post-Cap 2 expectations were too high…

THREE OUT OF FIVE*

*Yeah, that score is kinda subject to change. At the screening we were denied the after-credits sequence, so I’m planning on watching GotG again so I can see it.

Saturday Special: Courgette and Cinnamon Muffins

20140719_131411

“Cinnamon and WHAT?” I hear you cry.

“Stahp yo’ cryin’,” I reply. “And it’s cinnamon and courgette.”

The courgette in this delightful sweet treat works exactly how carrot does in a carrot cake. It’s not immediately obvious, but it adds a certain sweetness and almost creamy texture to them that really does work. So if you’re looking for something intriguing and delicious to whip up and amaze your friends with then give these a go.

Here’s how you make them (the recipe is from my go-to book for anything cakey and awesome, ‘Annie Bell’s Baking Bible’):

You will need:

225g plain flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

100g golden caster sugar, plus extra for dusting

1/3 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus extra for dusting

200ml whole milk

1 medium egg

75g unsalted butter, melted

finely grated zest of 1 lemon

125g coarsely grated courgette

75g raisins

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and arrange 8-10 muffin cases inside a muffin tray (silicone muffin cases would be perfect for this, as recommended by my fellow DTSFTers, or you can use regular cupcake cases and put them on a baking tray, like I did).

2. Combine the flour, baking powder, 100g sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl and mix.

3. Whisk the milk, egg and butter with the lemon zest in a medium-sized bowl, then stir in the courgette and raisins.

4. Put the wet ingredients in with the dry ingredients and loosely combine – the mixture should be wet but lumpy.

5. Divide the mixture equally between the muffin/cupcake cases and sprinkle some more sugar and cinnamon on the top to give them a golden look and a nice crunch and put in the oven. You can check if they’re cooked by sticking a knife in the middle of one, but here’s the difference – if it comes out slightly wet still, it’s cooked. You want them to be slightly underdone to give them that ooey-gooeyness.

Bon appetito!

Hannah

 

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Andy Serkis + sweet CGI – James Franco = very, very good

 

Years have passed after the events of Rise of the Planet of the Apes and an outbreak of simian flu has smoked a large percentage of the human race. The apes exist in peace in their own realm, but trouble starts when a group of human survivors venture into their territory in search of electricity.

DOTPOTA runs a lot deeper than just a simple humans vs apes story. Apes are not the enemy, but neither are humans. Gary Oldman’s character is hell bent on wiping the animals out, while on the apes’ side Caesar (an astonishing performance from Andy Serkis yet again) has to contend with the hateful and violent Koba (Toby Kebbell, also astonishing). It’s these nuances that keep the story grounded among the monkeys-on-horseback setpieces.

Much like he did with Cloverfield, director Matt Reeves succeeds at creating a decaying, imposing and desolate world that is also plausible. He’s also great with large-scale destruction of civilisations without overdoing the explosions, which makes the chaos in the third act much more effective.

The clip that aired during the World Cup semi final, of Koba shooting a man in the face, drew complaints from parents for a reason. The tone veers sharply and seamlessly from sci-fi/action to chilling horror. That is in no way a criticism.

There has been talk of how hardly any female characters feature in the film (some interesting points are made in both of these articles – thanks, Sophia!) and to be honest, while watching I got swept away by the brilliance of the film and I didn’t notice. Looking back on it however, it should have been glaringly obvious. In terms of women we have Keri Russell’s Ellie, and Caesar’s other half Cornelia who, as Vulture rightfully points out, you don’t even know is called Cornelia unless you IMDB that shizz later.

The most disheartening thing about it is that the lack of female characters was not intentional – it just sorta happened. Reeves himself has admitted he doesn’t know why DOTPOTA contains hardly any women and that’s sad. Female characters wasn’t even something that came up in discussion, and that’s a problem most films still have. Dudes are the default. This isn’t to take anything away from this movie – I loved it – but there’s room for improvement should a sequel go into production (which it hopefully will).

I’ll finish on a positive note. This is going to sound flowery, but there’s a great message here about judging people on their good and bad qualities as individuals instead of lumping everyone together with sweeping generalisations. Also there’s a baby ape in it and it’s soooooooooooo cute.

FIVE OUT OF FIVE

Saturday Special: Gorgeously Golden Peanut Butter Cookies

Photo on 08-07-2014 at 22.49

Excuse the mess…

 

Long time no speak.

So here’s a cookie (BISCUIT BISCUIT BISCUIT) recipe from Nigella Lawson’s website, which I understand to be a ‘community recipe’, and thus not by the lady herself. Nevertheless, these tasty treats are so delicious that you’d enter into a battle to the death with your own mother just to have the last one.

 

Taken from the website:

Ingredients

50g soft light brown sugar

50g caster sugar

50unsalted butter (soft)

1 medium egg

teaspoon honey

teaspoon vanilla

200g peanut butter crunchy

100plain flour

teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

teaspoon salt

Transformers: Age of Extinction? Transformers: Age of ExSTINKtion more like. Ha.

(Picture: Paramount Pictures)

Everything is awful

When Tesco Tony Stark Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) discovers an abandoned truck that turns out to be a Transformer, he and his daughter become wanted by a crooked government official and the evil Decepticons, who are both trying to wipe Autobots off the face of the earth.

Quick disclaimer first – I haven’t seen Transformers 1 through 3, so I can’t say whether they were better or worse than Age of Extinction, but I’m going to go with better.

Man of Steel (which I enjoyed) raised a few eyebrows with the amount of destruction depicted on screen, but Age of Extinction manages to top it. Stuff blows up. A lot. Cars crash into other cars that then crash into buildings, and as a result the already trying 165-minute running time seems much, much longer. The plot is weak, the dialogue is atrocious and the third act features a dull, lengthy scrap in the streets of Hong Kong that only serves as a way to push more brand names in our faces. Oh yeah, and there are dinosaur Transformers now too, and the sight of Prime riding one like a horse is the least ridiculous part of this film.

That honour probably goes to Cade’s daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz), who fell victim to the “woman in a Michael Bay movie” trope. Despite the fact she’s meant to be 17, there’s a lot of focus on how hot she is (including a weird comment from her dad’s friend about her shorts) and she spends 85% of the film screaming for someone to save her.

Actually, all the human characters are paper thin. Wahlberg’s performance is particularly unremarkable, which is a shame because he’s usually engaging and likeable on screen. Jack Reynor’s Shane on the other hand is neither, and should have been killed off in the first act along with Cade’s pervy mate. As for Stanley Tucci and Kelsey Grammer – why did they agree to something so beneath them? WHAT DOES BAY HAVE ON THEM???

There are plus points: the heavy Imagine Dragons track for one; and the visuals are impressive. The fluid look and feel of the Transformium-made bots works well, and seeing Optimus Prime and co. switch from Transformer to vehicle is still pretty cool to watch. Bay has spent so much time making sure the non-human characters look good that he’s forgotten to, you know, actually make a decent movie.

60 minutes too long, incredibly boring and some mild racism thrown in for good measure (Ken Watanabe’s samurai Autobot), even 15-year-old boys will be insulted by this crap. And if they aren’t then they should be. No bueno.

ONE OUT OF FIVE

Sunday Special: Bakewell Tart

Oh yeah, OH YEAH. A bit of bakewell tart on a weekend never went amiss.

It’s ‘DTSFT’s least likely to cook’ Helen here, with a recipe from The Guardian on what makes the perfect bakewell tart. I didn’t alter a single thing, so I’ll copy it wholesale from the website and paste it here. All credit to Felicity Cloake for this.

Makes a 23cm bakewell tart 
For the pastry:
140g plain flour, plus extra to sprinkle
85g cold butter, plus extra to grease
Pinch of salt
Ice cold water

For the frangipane:
110g butter
110g caster sugar
2 eggs
110g ground almonds
25g plain flour
½tsp baking powder
Zest of ½ lemon

For the compote (or use 100g low-sugar raspberry jam):
250g raspberries (fresh or frozen)
25-35g caster sugar depending on sweetness of tooth
Juice of ½ lemon
25g flaked almonds, to top

To make the pastry, mix the flour and salt in a bowl, and then grate in the cold butter. Rub this into the flour, then stir in just as much cold water as you need to bring it together into a dough; it should not be sticky. Alternatively use a food processor. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least an hour. Preheat the oven to 190C (170C fan)/gas mark 5.

Grease a 23cm tart tin and roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface until large enough to line the tin. Do so, then line with baking paper and weigh down with baking beans or dried pulses. Bake for about 15 minutes until golden.

Meanwhile, make the compote, if using, by putting the berries into a small pan with the sugar and lemon juice and bringing to the boil. Simmer for about 12 minutes until thickened. Allow to cool slightly.

To make the frangipane, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy, then beat in the eggs. Fold in the dry ingredients and zest and a pinch of salt.

Remove the paper and beans and return the pastry to the oven for a couple of minutes until golden. Spread the compote over the base, and top with the frangipane. Level out and bake for 25 minutes until golden and well risen. Add the almonds on top in the last 5 minutes of cooking.

 

I didn’t have flaked almonds so like the pikey that I am, I took some whole almonds and chopped them a bit. Don’t bother if you haven’t got flaked almonds, not worth it!

 

ImageHere’s a cross-section photo for good measure:

Image

@bythesheetstore