Museum Week At The National Museum of Scotland

Since it’s Museum Week (nah, I’m joking, I didn’t even know it was museum week until I got there), I decided to pop along to the National Museum of Scotland for a bit of culture.

IMG_2548Holy crap, the backend of my WordPress has just changed. Hold on everyone, god only knows what this blog post might look like by the time it reaches you.

Anyway. The museum is currently hosting the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition, and seeing as how I like wildlife, like photography and love the museum, I figured it’d be worth a peek.

IMG_2539Unfortunately, cameras aren’t allowed into the exhibition, presumably so that scoundrels like me don’t pretend they’ve had a casual encounter with a lion cub while wandering the Lockerbie hills. So you’ll just have to take my word for it, if you’re in Edinburgh, it’s definitely worth a look. From mummy crocodiles with baby crocs on their faces, to stampeding herds of elephants, the photographs are simply stunning. The exhibition is running until June 1st, and is completely free! Hooray!

Having sated my desire for grown up culture, I headed back into the main hall to sample some of the museum’s other delights.

IMG_2546The National Museum of Scotland is an amazing place for little kids and big kids alike, providing fun, interactive and educational exhibits whether you want to learn about dinosaurs or racecars, pottery or Ancient Egypt. My obsessions haven’t changed much since I was 8 years old, so I immediately made a beeline for the Natural World and Earth in Space galleries.

My first ever trip to the museum happened because I heard they had a dinosaur. They do. It is excellent.

My first ever trip to the museum happened because I heard they had a dinosaur. They do. It is excellent.

This is a mega sloth. The fact that this animal once existed brings me untold amounts of joy. Just imagine a sloth this big.

This is a mega sloth. The fact that this animal once existed brings me untold amounts of joy. Just imagine a sloth this big.

Don't you listen to them rock, I think you're beautiful.

Don’t you listen to them rock, I think you’re beautiful.

Whether you want to while away a few hours on a lazy afternoon, learn something new, or just dress up as an astronaut for a while (no lie, I have done this), the National Museum of Scotland is one of my favourite places to hang out in Edinburgh. Go on, it’s Museum Week after all.

Scones, Sleep and Mummy Sheep

This weekend, Niall and I decided to run away to the Dryfesdale Hotel in Lockerbie for a few days of unwinding and doing absolutely hee haw. After all, one of us is working on a thesis and the other is a lazy layabout, so I figured we deserved a break.

The weekend didn’t get off to the best start, with a series of unfortunate events leading to us walking down a motorway in the pitch dark in the worst weather I’ve ever experienced for an hour. This was definitely in no way my fault. Definitely. Don’t listen to Niall, he’s a madman.

We arrived at the hotel throughly drookit, and after an admission from Niall that if he was ever going to murder me, it’d be right now, I decided it was best to start plying him with alcohol immediately. We checked in, headed up to our room and filled the bath with cold water and booze, like the classy folks we are.

We may have gone overboard on the vino. Or maybe that's just our regular photo faces. Who knows?

We may have gone overboard on the vino. Or maybe that’s just our regular photo faces. Who knows?

The next morning was blustery and grey, but dry after the world shattering storm of the night before. Since he was the one who actually needed to relax, I left Niall sleeping and went for a wander around the scenic hotel grounds.

That's the hotel, hiding at the top of the hill there.

That’s the hotel, hiding at the top of the hill there.

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Look at the little laaaaambs!

Look at the little laaaaambs!

News of my walk earned me nothing but ridicule from the boy, who insisted that my fondness for lambs marked me out as a clear townie, and that there was really no such thing as a “mummy sheep”. Much hilarity involving mummy sheep and gentlemen sheep transpired, all at my expense. Despite his unsporting mockery, I allowed Niall to accompany me to afternoon tea, mainly so I could snaffle his glass of prosecco.

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No word of a lie, I would go back to this hotel for the restaurant alone. Comfy couches and chairs lined a wall entirely made of windows, which offered completely breathtaking views of the nearby hills. As a resident country bumpkin, Niall was less impressed than I with the scenery, but even he conceded that it was “grand, I suppose”. We ate breakfast, afternoon tea and dinner in this same room, and the views looked different every time. I could have spent the entire weekend curled up on one of those couches with a cup of tea and left happy.

Niall admiring the views. Me admiring Niall.

Niall admiring the views. Me admiring Niall.

We took a much less traumatic walk back into town, a journey which in the sunlight only took about 20 minutes. After months of being battered by freezing cold and rain, passing each other like ships in the night thanks to work, uni and various other shenanigans, walking along hand in hand in the sunshine was as good a holiday as I could have hoped for. He even picked me a handful of daffodils, because he’s a big sap, really.

But more importantly, our jaunt into the town allowed us to replenish our vital stocks for the room. Armed with strawberry pencils, bags of popcorn and yes, more alcohol, we headed back to the hotel, just in time for the rain to start pelting down again.

So we did what any normal couple would do. Hunkered down for the night and watched a veritable bumload of CSI. Brilliant.

Seriously, if anyone is looking for a relaxing little weekend, this hotel is awesome. The scenery is to die for, the rooms are nice and comfy, and the staff are stupidly friendly. Like, crazy friendly. But in a good way. We arrived back in Edinburgh all smiles, feeling utterly replenished, and with me already thinking about where we can go next…

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A 6-Step Chicken Pie For Pi Day

One cannot live on pecan pies and pancakes alone, regrettably proven by my first year at university. So today, in honour of International Pi Day (3.14, in case anyone is confused), let’s make some real person food! This chicken pie is one of my absolute favourite dinners to make, and it’s even reasonably healthy – delicious, buttery pastry notwithstanding. It will feed four people with potatoes, or two very hungry ones without. Niall and I have definitely polished off a full one between us before.

To make this pie, you will need:

Some excellent music

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I was feeling all summery.

A delicious candle

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Some baking equipment

Scales, two mixing bowls, a rolling pin and a pie tin.

Scales, two mixing bowls, a rolling pin and a pie tin (I use a cake tin because I’m a failure of an adult).

260g plain flour
150g butter
10 tablespoons cold water
Pinch of salt
1 egg
Milk
2 chicken breasts, cooked and diced
100g cooked ham, sliced
200g green beans
1/2 a broccoli
300ml tub of creme fraiche
Tarragon, to taste

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And yourself

Here in body, if not entirely in mind.

Here in body, if not entirely in mind.

Alright, let’s do this!

1. First, we’re going to make pastry exactly like we did for the pecan pie, except this is a covered pie, so we’re making roughly twice as much. Put your flour, butter and salt into a large mixing bowl and gently rub it together with your fingertips until it looks like fine breadcrumbs. The finer you can get this bit, the more crumbly and yummy your pastry will be. Maybe. I might have made that up.

Like this!

Like this!

2. Add the water to this mixture slowly, stirring with a cold knife (or your hands, if you want to be really old school) until it binds together into a ball of dough. Wrap the dough in cling film and stick it in the fridge to chill for at least half an hour.

I wish I’d made a picture of some dough with sunglasses on, chilling. Anyway!

3. While the dough chills, make your filling. This is almost offensively easy. Chop your chicken, ham, broccoli and green beans into bite sized chunks and put them in your mixing bowl with the creme fraiche. Add a good teaspoon of tarragon, a pinch of salt and pepper and then stir together. Filling made. Well done you.

I never thought I'd eat anything this green.

I never thought I’d eat anything this green.

4. Remove your dough from the fridge and split it in two. At this point, preheat your oven to 200C. Roll out your first half until it is big enough to fill your pie tin. Fill your pie with your meat and vegetables.

IMG_24345. Dampen the edges of your pastry, then roll out your second half of dough and place it on top. Press down gently to ensure the lid is sealing the filling inside. Crimp the edges of your pie with a fork. Make some leaves from leftover pastry if you’re feeling super fancy.

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If you’re making your pie ahead of time, this is the point to cover it in tinfoil and stick it in the fridge. If not, plough on!

6. Lightly beat an egg with a dash of milk and brush your pastry generously with it. This will help it get nice and golden and crispy. Stick your pie in the oven for 30 minutes, then serve to the adoring “oooohs” of your friends.

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This is just a basic recipe, but you can switch up ingredients however much you fancy! If my boyfriend had less awful taste in food, I’d swap out half of the creme fraiche for cream cheese and add a tin of sweetcorn. An awesome dinner if you’re looking to get kids (or picky adults) to eat their greens. Enjoy!

A Spring In My Step

After the mother of all apocalyptic storms yesterday, this morning Edinburgh woke up with a little spring in its step. As an extreme heliophile, I decided to take the lovely weather as an excuse to explore my gorgeous city. I bundled up warm and set off on a wander. It was one of those mornings where the chill in the wind still cuts through you, but the sun warms you with the promise of a summer to come (please, oh please).

Edinburgh is one of those cities that does well in the rain, all gloomy and mysterious and brooding, but when the sunlight hits her, she is beyond compare.

Spot the castle peeping through.

Spot the castle peeping through.

IMG_2361IMG_2350My walk was unintentionally lengthened by me locking myself out of my flat, like a genius, but I didn’t mind too much, just kept soaking up the sunlight and caught up on my window shopping. Bruntsfield shop windows are the best.

IMG_2354 IMG_2364I managed to lay my hands on a spare set of keys, just in time for the dark clouds to start rolling in. Besides, there was a cup of tea and a homemade scone in the flat with my name on it. So I nipped home along the canal, waving hello to my favourite barge as I passed.

A barge called Dignity. Brilliant.

A barge called Dignity. Brilliant.

IMG_2358I was feeling so intoxicated by all the spring sprunging around that I even bought myself an enormous, beautiful bunch of flowers.

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I fixed myself a mini afternoon tea for one, gazed at my flowers and pretended I was sitting in a seaside cafe somewhere. Hopefully the sunshine is here to stay!

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Don’t scratch your nose while rolling dough.

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Click the picture for a scone recipe!

Check out my adorable Beatrix Potter tea.

Check out my adorable Beatrix Potter tea.

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The Party of the Century

We had a big weekend this weekend, folks. On Friday, the little sister turned 18. Christ, that makes me feel old.

We rose bright and early on Friday morning for presents and the traditional birthday breakfast of champions.

Yes, my mum did make me sunshine pancakes on my 22nd birthday last year. That's what love is.

Yes, my mum did make me sunshine pancakes on my 22nd birthday last year. That’s what love is.

Juno got Sophie a disgusting, chewed up bone, because she loves her.

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And then a birthday cuddle.

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And then helped her open the rest of her presents.

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Really, Juno is the best family member. She puts us all to shame.

I wanted to do something pretty special for Sophie’s 18th, so I put a whole lot of thought into her present. I remembered a story that I made up for her when we were kids, wrote it down, made it better and turned it into a book!

Tah-dah! Look, that's my name!

Tah-dah! Look, that’s my name!

This was the moment Sophie realised what it was:

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It was excellent. After a very lazy morning, we were taken out and treated to a fabulous lunch at Jamie’s Italian in Glasgow by this guy:

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Sophs enjoyed her first legal drink:

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And then a few more legal drinks…

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Birthday cake number one arrived, in the unexpected but excellent form of a bread and butter pudding.

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Making a wish!

Making a wish!

And then, since it was a special occasion and we figured we could get away with it, we followed up the bread and butter pudding with the king of all dessert platters.

Have you ever seen anything so beautiful in your entire life?

Have you ever seen anything so beautiful in your entire life?

Absolutely stuffed, and with half an hour before we needed to be on a train home, we decided that there was definitely enough time to swing by the Hard Rock Cafe for a cocktail or two.

Our dad is totally a bad influence.

Our dad is totally a bad influence.

At this point, we figured we’d all had a bit too many legal drinks, and decided to slow it down a bit.

No, I’m totally kidding, we went to dad’s place for more champagne and birthday cake number two.

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Champagne from a teapot, because our living room is pretty much a speakeasy.

Champagne from a teapot, because our living room is pretty much a speakeasy.

We all headed back to mum’s to toast the moment that Sophie came into the world with, yes, you guessed it, more champagne.

A completely sober and sensible photograph.

A completely sober and sensible photograph.

The next few hours passed in a hilarious jumble of wriggling into party dresses, dancing to Beyonce and attempting to apply liquid eyeliner while drunk.

Finally, it was party time, and our enormous, mad family started to fill the party paradise that is our kitchen.

Behold my excellent decoration skills.

Behold my excellent decoration skills.

SONY DSCThings got out of hand pretty much immediately.

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jaeger

You may notice that Sophie appears to be in both of the Jaeger photos.

By the time birthday cake number three rolled round, everyone was having a ball.

cake sophs cakeross

We all danced the night away and the party continued until the wee hours in the morning.

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In fact, as far as I know, the celebrations are still raging on, two days later. Happy birthday, gorgeous girl, I know this is going to be your year.

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The Greatest Pancake Recipe Of All Time

Pancakes were the first things I ever learned to bake, guided by the knowledgeable hands of my great granny. That’s right, this is an awesome, secret, hand me down family recipe, which I’m probably going to be disowned for putting on the internet, so you guys better enjoy these pancakes.

We’re talking real pancakes here, none of that crepe nonsense. This recipe will give you amazing, thick, fluffy Scottish pancakes.

They are still one of my favourite things to make, because they’re so simple and taste so freaking delicious. If 11 year old me can get it right, so can you!

I’ve doubled up my recipe today, because I intend on eating pancakes for every one of my meals, but I’ll give you the standard one and you can do with it what you will.

1. Put 2 cups of self raising flour, 1 cup of sugar, 2 eggs and a big glug of milk into a big bowl.

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2. Beat this together with an electric mixer or whisk, if you’re super old school. Keep adding more milk and mixing until it gets to the stage where drops of mixture take a second to sink back into the mix.

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3. Secret ingredient time! Add a great big dollop of Lyle’s golden syrup and stir that in. I will fall out with you if you don’t use Lyle’s.

Look at it, glowing in the heavenly light.

Look at it, glowing in the heavenly light.

4. You’re ready to cook them! I have a pancake maker, which seriously, might sound frivolous and stupid, but means you can mix up a batch of batter on a Sunday night and have pancakes in 4 minutes for the rest of the week. It also means you don’t have to sacrifice your first pancake to the pancake gods like you to when you fry them in a pan. But if you don’t have a pancake maker, get a pan nice and hot and grease it with plenty of butter. Put a ladleful of batter into your pan and wait for it to start bubbling like crazy. Flip it. Check the other side occasionally. When both sides are a nice, rich brown, it’s done.

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I like them best just with butter on, but they’re also amazing with jam, syrup, sugar and lemon, and cheese (trust me on this one, it’ll change your life).

Enjoy!

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A Big Sister’s Duty: The Stuff No One Else Will Tell You

Today, I watched the Miss Representation documentary. If you haven’t seen it yet, please go watch it. It is so awesome, despite a really spacey, strange occasional voiceover.

Within nine minutes of pressing play, I was bawling my eyes out. Listening to a high schooler’s voice crack in pain as she described how her little sister cuts herself because she hates her body resonated all too clearly. As far as I know, neither of my sisters has ever hurt themselves, thank goodness. But the thought of the bullshit they’re going to have to endure just by virtue of being female is genuinely painful. With one getting ready to go to uni next year, and high school not too far away for the other, I know that they’re going to have to go through some pretty hard times, and that, being girls, they’re going to be told to think and feel and be certain ways, or face punishment.

So I’ve got a few messages for my two incredible, inspiring, strong baby sisters, based on my experiences of being a laydee, which I hope will help get them through the hard times.

Warning to family members: there will be discussions of S-E-X and other such girly things in this post.

fskLet’s start with your body, because honestly, that’s what lots of people are going to do. People will judge you because of your body, they will assume that they know things about you because of how your body looks, they’ll tell you that your body is wrong, they’ll use it as a weapon against you, they’ll assume that your body is theirs to touch and comment on.

Here’s what to do with your body in response to that: don’t change a damn thing. You are not your body. This is really tough to remember sometimes, because we girls have it constantly shoved down our throats that the only way to be worth something is to have a body that confines to somebody else’s conception of what sexy is. But honestly, your body does not define who you are. It’s just a vessel that carries your beautiful heart and brilliant mind around from one place to the next, and as long as you are keeping it healthy and strong (whatever that looks like!), then it’s perfect. Everyone always tells you to learn to love your body. I’d like to take that a step further and tell you to learn to love the whole of you. Love how your eyes crease up when you tell an awesome joke. Love how your wobbly bits shake when you dance like a crazy person. Love how you throw your hands around when you’re talking about something you love. You are so wonderful, and you have way too much to do in this world to sit in front of a mirror worrying that your legs are too fat.

This doesn’t mean I’m telling you to burn your dresses and snap your eyeliner pencils. Wanting to look good is awesome, as long as you are doing it on your terms. Don’t let anyone else define your beautiful, ever. Look however you want to look. Wear plum lipstick at 11am. Go out barefaced in your raggiest old jumper. Buy that teeny tiny little dress you love. Wearing lipstick doesn’t make you an attention seeker. Wearing a leather miniskirt doesn’t make you a slut.

On that note, it’s time to get super serious. I really don’t want to talk about sexual assault, because I wish that it wasn’t a problem. But 1 in 5 women in this country have experienced some kind of sexual violence since they turned 16, myself among them, so we have to talk about it. Like I said above, some people think that your body is theirs to touch. It isn’t. Unless you want them to, of course (more on that later). No matter how you are dressed, how drunk you are, how many people you’ve had sex with before, what you’ve done with the person before, NOBODY is allowed to touch your body without your consent. Don’t think that you’ve led anyone on, or feel pressured to act a certain way because of how you’ve acted in the past, or because you’ve already said you would do something. You have the right to refuse, every single time, and if someone goes against that, it’s sexual assault. I don’t care if you’re blind drunk, wearing nothing but a tinsel bikini. This does not give anyone the right to sexually assault you. This line of reasoning is such total bollocks that I can’t believe it still exists, but it really does, so let me just throw a stat out for you: only 9% of rapes in the UK are committed by a stranger. You are 9 times more likely to be attacked by someone you know in a situation that you thought was safe. So don’t ever be embarrassed to set limits, know that anything to do with your body is your choice, and if something does happen to you, don’t you dare ever for a second believe that it was your fault.

Okay, onto (gulp) consensual sex. I’m not going to tell you not to have sex, because let’s face it, sex is fun, and it’s totally normal, and it’s a natural part of growing up, but I would like to offer one teeny bit of advice. Wait and do it with a man or woman that you feel really comfortable with. Not because it has to be special or because losing your virginity to a random person means you don’t respect yourself. Shockingly, I think that a woman’s sexual experiences are nobody else’s fucking business, and anyone who thinks that they are in any way relevant is a flaming idiot. Have as much sex as you want, with as many people as you want – whatever you are happy and comfortable with. But the reason I’d say you should wait for someone excellent, and this is something that no one will ever tell you, is that the first time is so very fucking awkward. It hurts a lot, and your body does loads of weird stuff, and so does your partner’s, and you really want to be with someone you can laugh with when your bodies press together and make that weird farting sound, rather than wanting to immediately die. Oh, also, always pee afterwards. This is another thing that no one ever tells you until you’re laid up in your GP with a horrifying urine infection. But that’s more mechanics that actual advice. And as Forrest Gump would say, that’s all I have to say about that.

Alright, that’s enough sex talk for one blog, let’s get back to you. Society tells people that women shouldn’t have a voice, and both men and women internalise that message. You will find that men interrupt you, talk over you, don’t take you seriously and use the mere fact that you are a woman to discredit you. And a lot of women buy into this too: they take men more seriously, think negatively about ambitious women and say things like, “Oh, I just get on better with men. There’s less drama”. Every one of these things is designed to make women shut up, and keep us in our place. To hell with that. You have a voice, so don’t be afraid to use it. Don’t be afraid to put yourself forward because some stupid societal structure tells you your opinion isn’t worth anything. I hate these structures, so I try to use my voice to change them. And if that makes some chauvinistic asshole think less of me, so be it. I speak up, so that the world will get better for you girls coming through. Pay it forward and speak up for the next generation. Don’t you ever listen to someone else’s idea of what you should be. Don’t try to be anything except yourself. When you write goals and wishes, focus on doing things, rather than being things.

One last thing and then I promise, I’ll shut up for a while. Be kind to other women. Don’t buy into that rubbish that tells you that ambitious women are manly, or successful women are bitchy, or pretty women are stupid and slutty. This is tough, because these stereotypes are pushed hard, every day, by a £71bn per year business. But we can be smarter than them. Just remember, we’re all complicated people, who are trying our best. Let’s be excellent to each other. I love you. You’re going to move mountains.

Easy As Pie

Since I have quite a lot of time on my hands right now, I have been seriously, badly bitten by the baking bug. Those scones started something.

So, welcome to Saturday kitchen, pecan pie edition. I should point out that I have never made a pecan pie before, so this is going to be a bit of a kamikaze bake. But sure let’s see what happens. This recipe makes one 9″ pie.

These are the things you will need to make a pecan pie.

These are the things you will need to make a pecan pie.

For the pastry:

140g plain flour
75g butter
5 tablespoons cold water

For the filling:

1 cup light brown sugar
6 tablespoons golden syrup
50g butter
150g pecans
4 eggs
Vanilla extract

1. Put on some awesome music. This is very important for the overall baking experience.

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2. Put your flour and butter into a large mixing bowl and rub them together until they look like fine breadcrumbs. Nice and gentle, like we were with the scones.

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It should look roughly like this once you're finished.

It should look roughly like this once you’re finished.

3. Add your cold water, and stir it in with a cold knife until your dough binds together. Add more water if it’s too dry, but go sloooowly, dough gets soggy really easily. Once you have a good ball of dough, wrap it in cling film and put it in the fridge to chill for at least half an hour.

I recommend filling this time with awesome kitchen dancing, to make up for eating an entire pie later.

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4. Preheat your oven to 180C/160C if your oven doubles as the gate to hell like mine. Put your brown sugar, butter and golden syrup in a pan. The amount of golden syrup is up to you, but I’m a big sweet tooth, so I went for 6 tablespoons. Turn on the heat until the sugar and butter has melted and you’re left with a thoroughly delicious smelling syrup. Let this boil for a minute, then turn off the heat. Leave for about 15 minutes to cool, because if you put raw eggs into boiling sugar, you’re gonna have a bad time.

Treat just for the chef: dunk a pecan into this syrupy mixture and enjoy.
Tip: don’t eat the whole pan like this, or burn your damn hands off with molten sugar.

Try to refrain from licking your screen.

Try to refrain from licking your screen.

5. Beat your eggs. If you skip this step and end up with pieces of fried egg in your filling, I will laugh at you. Stir your eggs into your syrup mixture. Keep the liquid moving until the eggs are totally incorporated.

6. Chop them pecans. I like big chunky bits in my pies, but you can do this as finely as you like. Add your chopped pecans and 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence to your filling.

Dem pecans.

Dem pecans.

7. Dust your work surface, a rolling pin, your hands, and anything else you fancy in flour. Take your dough out of the fridge and roll it out until it’s big enough to fill your pie tin. I say pie tin. I am still not a functioning grown up, so used a shallow cake tin. But if you have a pie tin, that would probably be better.

They see me rollin', they hatin'.

They see me rollin’, they hatin’.

8. Pour your mixture into your pie case. Try not to drool into it.

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9. Bake until it wobbles only slightly when shaken. Mine took about 30 mins.

10. Leave it to cool completely. Seriously, I mean completely. If you don’t leave it to cool, it’s not gonna set. This step is hard.

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If you want, you can use this time to laugh at the fact that your kitchen looks like this:

Lol.

Lol.

Serve your pie with a veritable bumload of cream.

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The results: This pie is sweet. Holy crap, it is sweet. And I say that as someone who likes to eat spoonfuls of golden syrup. But in little slices, it’s pretty damn delicious.

Also, despite my stern warnings in step 10, I totally cut my pie before it was cool, so it’s ever so slightly runny. Will leave longer next time. Maybe.

**Important pie update** It would appear that pecan pie falls into the same category as soup and chilli, in that it is better the next day. Today, the pie is completely delicious and I want to eat all of it with a fork.