I often begin to write in my head. My thesis, these blog posts, all begin in iterations in my head. Sometimes while I am walking to catch a bus. On a run up the hill. Often just when I am trying to go to sleep. As a rule, I never write these iterations down. I let them fumble about in my head, seep into my unconscious and then, much later, and usually in normal waking hours, I put pen to paper (or hands to keyboard, depending on my mood and energy level) and I write things out. I don’t fight the head-writing process. Even though it keeps me awake for an extra hour, or makes me look like I am talking to myself, I simply work through what is in my head until I am distracted by something on my route or I fall asleep or my mind loses the train of thought and I drift to thinking about other things. Rarely is the written version in anyway related to what was in my head, but the writing in my head helps – it clears my thoughts and focuses the idea. And eventually, it calms the thoughts in my head to a whisper and I can sleep.
Such is my writing process. Of course sometimes, like today, I write an entire blog post about something and then I put it on the back burner, save it into drafts and let things lie for a while. The same is true of thesis writing. I write things, often with a pen on paper, and then I cross them out, begin again. Write more. Get up, walk around. Go for a run. Make a casserole, or cake. Watch many (many) episodes of Foyle’s War. Start up my computer, because, perhaps, today, I will begin by typing something straight into Word, rather than writing it out by hand. Then I write another paragraph. And then perhaps another. (My worst is when the head writing process has turned out some rather fabulous lines that I know are in my subconscious somewhere, but I just can’t access them. That’s when I think that actually I should be writing everything down.)
I am busy working on finalising a research project and I am fixing the policy chapter of my thesis. Both of these require an endless amount of sitting at a desk, writing and thinking. If my PhD has taught me one thing, it is that I am not good at sitting at a desk. You want me to run around for hours, taking plates of food to people? Sure. You want me to make a wedding cake, a process that takes three days (and a lot of wine)? No problem. You want me to go out and talk to people, ask them questions about their lives? I am totally game. But then you want me to sit down, be still, and coordinate those thoughts into something readable? I am useless. I am also a fantastic procrastinator. So some days I have to simply tell myself, over and over, just another 25 minutes, just another 25 minutes. And slowly, slowly, those minutes build into hours and the process of being still and sitting at the desk turns out to be productive. But my oh my, sometimes it is hard work.
Today has been a day like that. To compensate, I made a late lunch of these caramelised onion and blue cheese biscuits. Deb over at Smitten Kitchen wrote about caramelised onion and gruyere biscuits earlier this week. And the new Delicious magazine has a recipe for a caramelised onion tart with a walnut and parmesan crust (I am still going to make that) so I guess I had caramelised onions on the brain. The recipe is based on my Ngonu’s scone recipe – a savoury version. I made big biscuits which I then ate with crispy bacon and balsamic roasted cherry tomatoes. They’re very good with butter too. I only cooked three (although the recipe made eight) so I’ve frozen the rest, already glazed for later in the month, when I cannot possibly be bothered to cook.
Caramelised Onion and Blue Cheese Biscuits
2 cups plain flour
2 heaped tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
2 tbsp caster sugar
80g cold butter, diced
1 egg broken into a 250ml cup and filled with buttermilk
1/2 cup gorgonzola pieces (you can add up to 3/4 cup of gorgonzola pieces if you want)
3/4 large white onion, finely sliced
Make the caramelised onions first as these need to cool. Heat a heavy bottomed saucepan and add a glug of olive oil. Add in the sliced onions and cook on a low heat until they are a pretty golden brown. This takes about 20 minutes and you need to pay attention so they don’t burn. Once they’re golden, remove them from the pan – put them onto a plate or into a bowl – and set aside to cool.
Put the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar into a large bowl.
Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles rough breadcrumbs. Then add in the blue cheese, making sure the pieces are fairly well coated in flour. Add in the cooled onions, coating in the flour too. Mix in the egg/buttermilk. Don’t add it all in at once. You need to reserve some for brushing the tops of the biscuits and the flour may not need all the liquid anyway. So add enough to form a soft, shaggy dough. Don’t overwork the dough. You want to stir it enough that it comes together but then stop. You don’t need to knead it or anything. Just bring everything lightly together. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and refrigerate for half an hour.
Preheat the oven to 220C and line a flat tray with baking paper.
Flour your work surface. Turn out the biscuit dough and pat it down, until it is about 1.5cm thick. The dough is super soft and so won’t take well to be rolled out. Just shape it as best you can with your hands. Use a cutter to cut biscuits to your desired size – you can have small or big ones. I made big ones and the mixture makes about 8 large biscuits. Place the biscuits on the baking tray and brush with the leftover egg/buttermilk mixture.
Bake for 10-15 minutes until risen and golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before eating.