With depression, you naturally go through ups and downs. I’d like to think that over time I’ve grasped how to cope with it, but it’s only over the last year or so that I developed anxiety too- and it’s this combination of the two that really blindsided me. It’s the first time in a long time I’ve felt I’ve struggled to function. It got to a point where I knew, and those close to me recognised, it was time to get some help again.
That first step can be really hard. It’s tough to open up and talk about such sensitive, personal issues. BUT (and it’s a big ‘but’), it can be so very liberating.
Fortunately, I’ve sought help before- from NHS and private counselling to hypnotherapy- so it was less of a hurdle for me to speak up this time. For me, I needed more than medication and self-help to get me by, I needed to talk it through and learn some coping mechanisms so I could feel I was leading a ‘normal’ life again. As I mentioned in my last post, the doctor put me in touch with Time to Talk, who in turn offered me group sessions on ‘Keeping the Balance’ while I was popped on a waiting list for independent treatment.
At first, I was apprehensive. Talking about yourself can be tricky at the best of times, but talking about your struggles with strangers? That’s a whole different board game, and not my typical cup of tea. So, despite admittedly dreading it a little (maybe a lot), I went to the sessions and learnt a lot, not only about depression and anxiety, but about myself in general- the effect my thoughts have on me, what steps I could take to get better, what support I need etc.
What I’ve realised is that the most important thing for me is feeling understood and accepted in my entirety. With mental health you can feel isolated, worthless and ashamed. It makes such a huge difference for someone to be open to your struggles, be a listening ear, talk things through but also continue to see you as YOU. Mental health isn’t a simple or straight-forward thing, but its human- surely we can all relate to that?
What I also realised was what a wonderful support I am fortunate enough to have. The day of my final group session I happened to appreciate the little things for the pretty big difference they made to my day. I woke up to a post-it note from Mum telling me to ‘go sparkle!’. I received a call from my brother during his lunch break, just wanting a catch-up. I had a message left on my phone from my Dad enthusiastically informing me that the cakes I baked him were- I quote- ‘THE BEST CAKES I’VE EVER EATEN’. High praise indeed. And if the best family in the world wasn’t enough (I’m biased, but they are great), I also have some invaluable friends who over the last few months have helped me more than they know with Facetimes, housing me for weekend visits, letters and even flowers- FLOWERS!!!- delivered to my house. I can’t thank them enough.
So, it’s a few weeks on now, and it’s still not the easiest of times, but it is far from the worst. I’ve taken some knocks, but I will work my way through them. After all, I’m not alone. I’ve got my own dream team behind me. As long as I’m looking after my health, I know I will be okay.
And it may have taken a little while but I’m ready. I’m ready to give it my all, give that anxiety the boot, send off those dreaded applications, be more productive with uni work, keep treasuring my truly wonderful friends and family- and importantly learn to treasure myself. Be the Meg I know I am and want to be.
Now, with my waffling it’s probably sur-PIES-ing this is a baking blog (you really thought I would pass up the opportunity to slip a pie pun in there?). To celebrate Pastry Week of the Great British Bake Off- whatever number week that was. Let’s face it, we’ve all forgotten- I wanted to make one of my Dad’s lunchtime favourites: pork pies. Now I’m not a pastry pro, so I went straight to the King of Baking for a recipe, Mr Paul Hollywood of course…
Prep 1 hour
Bake 50 minutes
For the hot water crust pastry:
– 265g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
– 55g strong white bread flour
– 55g unsalted butter, cubed
– 65g lard
– 1 tsp salt
– 135ml boiling water
– 1 egg, lightly beaten for glazing
For the filling:
– 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
– 380g pork loin, finely chopped
– 100g unsmoked back bacon, finely chopped
– Small bunch of parsley, leaves only, chopped
– Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
– 1 large or 2 small sheets of leaf gelatine
– ½ chicken stock cube
– 300ml boiling water
- Heat your oven to 190°C. Have a ready a 12-hole muffin tin.
- First make the pork filling. Put the onion, pork, bacon and parsley into a bowl with some salt and pepper and mix well. To check the seasoning of the mix, fry a tiny nugget of the mixture in a frying pan until cooked through. Leave to cool, then taste and adjust your mixture accordingly. Cover and set aside while you make the pastry.
- For the hot water crust, put your flours into a bowl. Add the butter and rub in with your fingertips. Heat the lard in a pan until melted. Dissolve the salt in the boiling water, then add to the melted lard. Pour this liquid into the flour. Mix with a spoon then, as soon as it is cool enough, tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and work together into a ball. Be careful that the dough is not too hot when you start to work it. Once the dough ball is formed, leave it to cool slightly. If it’s still lumpy, work it a minute or two longer. Divide the dough in two, making one piece slightly bigger than the other.
- Working as quickly as you can, roll out the larger piece of dough to about 3mm thickness; it should be glossy and still warm enough to touch. Using an 11-12cm cutter, cut out 12 rounds to line the muffin moulds. Put them into the moulds, shaping to fit the sides. The pastry should come slightly above the rim of each mould. Roll out the other piece of dough and use a 6-7cm cutter to cut out 12 lids. Lift away the trimmings and re-roll the pastry if you need to cut more, but only once. As it cools, it stiffens and becomes more brittle.
- Put a heaped tablespoonful of the filling into each pastry case. Use a chopstick or something similar to make a good-sized hole, about 5mm in diameter, in the middle of each pie lid. Brush the pastry case rims with beaten egg and place the lids on top. Crimp the edges together well to seal. Brush the pastry lids with beaten eggs. Bake the pies for 50 minutes until golden brown.
- While the pies are in the oven, soften the gelatine in cold water to cover for 5 minutes or so. In a jug, dissolve the chicken stock cube in the boiling water. Drain the gelatine and squeeze to remove the excess liquid, then add to the stock and stir in completely dissolved.
- When the pies come out of the oven, enlarge the holes in the top if necessary, then carefully pour in a little of the gelatine mixture. Leave the pies to cool and settle overnight before serving. Or once cold, chill for a couple hours.
These little lovelies received a great reception not only from my *biased* taste-testers (I.e. the family), but also customers at my Mum’s Deli. The recipe was honestly a godsend to follow, and although perhaps not the prettiest or PIES-winning (sorry for that one) pork pies ever, I felt I achieved a pretty damn tricky bake! So, if you fancy a bit of a challenge, and the opportunity to make A LOT of terrible puns, this is the bake for you.
Ciao for now xoxo
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