Monday, 27 May 2013

Pineapple flambé

Often you don't know when something happens for the last time. The last time you go into a store or cafe. The last time you see someone. You say see you soon, but then for some reason that just never happens. Often when I see updates from old friends on Facebook, I realise I can't remember the last time we saw each other and if it was a goodbye or a see you soon moment. Obviously, I hope I will be seeing many of them in the future, maybe by mistake or maybe intentionally. But then there are also times when you know you are doing something for the last time. Like the last day at work. You know you are walking over to the cafeteria for the last time, you give your last presentation, you say those awkward goodbyes because you don't quite know what to say. My wonderful colleagues made my last day at work very lovely by joining me for a nice pub lunch, and I was also showered with gifts and flowers. Had I known you get this much presents for leaving, I would have done it sooner! Naah, just kidding. 

And then there is the last time you write a blog post in the tiny shoebox of an apartment that in so many ways has been the centre of your life for the last two and a half years. Your safe place. This is the last night I spend in here. All of my stuff is hauled away to the Culinary Consultant's bachelor pad, and I have spent most of the day cleaning the apartment from floor to ceiling. Scrubbing the sinks, cleaning the fridge, wiping every possible surface, vacuuming, trying to get rid of all that nasty limescale in the shower. I'm pretty much done now, it's not only clean, it's Finnish clean (and that is a very different concept to UK clean!). Now I'm just waiting to go to sleep for the last time in my little penthouse. So much has happened here. I have laughed, I have cried. Mostly I have just been slouching on the sofa, watching Big Bang Theory. I wrote my first blog post here. I spent evenings in candlelight with someone I thought liked me (I was wrong about that). I have curled up on the sofa wrapped in blankets and blasted the radiator trying to keep warm in the middle of winter. I have gone to sleep under a wet duvet cover to cool myself down during the hottest nights of summer when the flat has been hotter than the inner circles of hell. I have woken up from dead sleep by the fire alarm and stood on the street watching flames come out of the window of the apartment under mine, hoping my place with all my stuff in it won't burn down. I have crawled home drunk after parties, and I have cried myself to sleep over boys. I cooked the first meal for the Culinary Consultant here. I had friends over for my birthday and served them Pink Unicorn cake and macaroons. I have made cards and I have eaten way too much chocolate. My wonderful man brought me flowers and ice cream when I was sad (or mad). I have been going crazy over my noisy neighbours, and I have been swearing while carrying my bike up  the 52 steps of stairs to my apartment. All of that will be a memory tomorrow. 

Today is my birthday. It's kind of weird that my birthday is my last day in this apartment. But at the same time, it's so fitting that I will have this one last night here to just go through all the motions. I am so excited about all the new things that are happening soon, but for this one night, I'm just allowing myself to be sentimental and think of everything that happened here. But yes, I knew the birthday celebrations would have to be postponed this year. I did have a nice little stack of birthday cards waiting for me this morning, along with some lovely gifts. But there was no cake this year. I'm happy to wait though, there will be time for that later. Hopefully lots of cake made in a big new kitchen. I did manage to find time to nip into Cambs and get me some birthday fudge, so today wasn't totally free of celebration. And I have had some scrummy almost-birthday meals. On Saturday we made BBQ burgers with Stilton, caramelised onions and a fruity mayo salsa (go check out the pic on my Facebook). That was a bit like a celebration, I love love love homemade burgers. And then yesterday evening we made pineapple flambé. I didn't quite know how to do it, so I googled a few recipes and then just made it up as I went along. If lighting things on fire isn't celebratory, I don't know what is!
Pineapple flambé (serves 2-3):
1/2 pineapple
25 g butter
1/4 cup light muscovado sugar
1/4 cup rum or other alcoholic beverage of choice
To serve: whipped cream, ice cream or custard

The howto:
Peel the pineapple, and cut half of it into three slices. Take out the hard middle part of each slice, so that you end up with three rings. Melt the butter in a frying pan, and add the sugar. Let melt into the butter, and caramelise for a minute or two, but make sure not to burn the sugar. Add pineapples and let cook for a few minutes on each side. While the pineapple is cooking, heat the alcohol in a saucepan. Take pineapple off the heat (turn off any gas flame). When the alcohols is warm (but before it boils!!) pour it over the pineapple and light on fire. For added dramatic effect, turn off the light. Make sure you are not doing this under an extractor fan, and also remember to have a lid close by just in case the flames get out of control. Better safe than sorry, although at least for me the flames were very moderate with no fear of anything getting out of control. After the dramatic display of flames, cook on medium heat until most of the liquid has evaporated to form a light syrup. Serve with ice cream, whipped cream or custard. 
You just have to take my word for it, but these are
some of the flames! In my defence, it's not easy
taking photographs when you are squealing
excitedly and jumping up and down.
The verdict:
So the secret (well not so much of a secret as something you just need to know) is to warm the alcohol before lighting it. Apparently, if the alcohol is room temperature, there just isn't enough alcoholic vapours for it to ignite. Also, the optimal alcohol to use for flambé is something with around 40% alcohol, such as rum or brandy. Although I think my little flambé experiment turned out rather nice, I think next time I would use a bit more sugar as the syrup wasn't quite as sweet as I would have liked. Maybe a mix of caster and muscovado. However, that will completely depend on your sweet tooth. I would also add some vanilla, which I would have done would I have remembered which box my vanilla sugar was in. The scrapings from a vanilla pod would have been even better. However, the dark rum we used gave the syrup a wonderful vanilla-y flavour. I haven't had a very good track record with flambés in the past, but this one lit up beautifully and I was jumping with joy watching the blue flames. So not a traditional birthday celebration, but I don't mind unconventional. Especially if things are lit on fire!
My going away flowers from my lovely colleagues!

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