10 August 2011

sugar & snaps: part one

I bought a magazine called oh comely last week in the airport. It’s only the second issue I’ve bought, but then again it’s only the second time I’ve seen it so that’s a success rate right there. What would marketing bods call that: 100% consumer uptake? Anyway, I think I’m about to indulge you in some buyer socialisation or some other marketing jargony nonsense by telling you that oh comely is a total inspiration and you should read it.

I was concerned it might be a bit indie artsy for me, or perhaps a bit derivative dah-ling. (Derivative, such a classic put down. And such nonsense, virtually everything's derivative isn't it? I vow never to say it again. Promise.) But the proof is in the pudding, and after reading it cover-to-cover on the long flight back to sunny Singapore, I have plans for at least three little missions, thanks entirely to the bright ideas in oh comely. My conclusion is, therefore, that the magazine is inspirational (or that I’m indie artsy fartsy). Whatever.

The three projects are as follows: 1) make a matchbox pinhole camera, 2) make Turkish delight, and 3) make marshmallows. (Ambitious postscript to projects 2 and 3: photograph said delights and mallows with pinhole camera.)

Crucial point of information: Turkish delight and marshmallows are unequivocally my two favourite comestibles in the entire world. I don’t understand people that dislike them. I don’t understand my husband, but it works because I get to eat all the Turkish delight and marshmallows.

I haven’t made a proper pinhole camera before, and I don’t anticipate it being my strong suit. I have tried to make Turkish delight, years ago, from a recipe out of the newspaper. It ended up looking like a pile of phlegmy boogers. I was so devastated by my failure that I didn’t even attempt Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s marshmallow recipe when I saw it.

But I've recovered and I’m up for a challenge or three.

What I didn’t realise was that the first part of the mission would be so tricky: the shopping. After visiting our biggest nearby supermarket, I came out with precisely one of the slightly esoteric ingredients required: powdered gelatine. My list comprised: pink food colouring, rose syrup, liquid glucose, crystallised rose petals and a sugar thermometer. So, off to the nearest baking school I tottered (there seem to be quite a few here, this city must be a world leader in liberating bored housewives of their money). After getting roundly stiffed for a thermometer and a packet of that super pricey food dye (so concentrated that I will never, even in my wildest dreams, use more than half a teaspoon of it in the rest of my life), I still have no rose syrup, liquid glucose or petals, crystalline or otherwise.

Time to improvise. Scratch the petals, I think they’re just for decoration anyway. Rose syrup: Singapore “don’t have lah”. Will rose essence do? How much rose essence equates to a tablespoon of rose syrup? Guess I’ll have to make it up as I go along. Liquid glucose “also don’t have”. You're probably grasping by now that Singaporean shop assistants can be amazingly (and charmingly) economical with words. “have” and “don’t have” often covers it, occasionally suffixed with “lah” and always with a big smile.

Back in the supermarket though, there is a curious American concoction described as “0g High Fructose Corn Syrup”. I consider myself pretty well educated (as in, I know the difference between glucose and fructose - that much I know at, like, a structural level), but I have simply no idea what this means… how can a bottle full of something be 0g? Zero grams of what? And is this stuff going to be a suitable alternative to liquid glucose? Answers on a postcard to any of these questions please.

Thankfully buying the ingredients for my pinhole camera was much easier. I already had everything except the electrical tape. Here’s the website that I’m going to follow: matchboxpinhole. I’ve recreated the photo on their “You will need” page below. It's just procrastination really. I need to build myself up for the possibility of further crushing disappointment...


  1. Oooh hurry up - the suspenders are killing me...
    I especially want to see the marshmallows as they have been on my list of things to make for a long time now!

  2. Can't hurry up, waiting for a plumber to fix broken dishwasher and have no water in the kitchen :/

    Anyway, I thought you were going to know all the answers about rose essence and liquid gloop...

  3. Ha ha - not a clue! Have fun experimenting.
    Boo about the water, though :-(


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