Tag Archives: American

An American-British Feast – Pumpkin Cheesecake and Eton Mess

pumpkin cheesecake

I’ve been living in the US for 2 1/2 years and have had the pleasure of being invited to three Thanksgiving celebrations.

I have really enjoyed trying the traditional dishes of turkey with gravy, various types of dressings, sweet potatoes with marshmallows and a particular favourite of mine – pumpkin pie.

But this year the pressure was on as I was invited to prepare the dessert – the only dessert! And as an extra twist it had to be gluten free.

The world of gluten free cooking is not one I’ve ever explored, but I was determined to find a recipe that would taste fantastic to everyone and not put anyone in the Emergency Room by the end of the night – definitely the very least you want from a dinner party!

I hedged my bets and went for two different desserts. A variation of my favourite pumpkin pie – Baked Pumpkin Cheesecake, and an old tried and tested recipe from home called Eton Mess.

The only thing I needed to do to make things celiac-safe was to use gluten free ginger snaps for the base of the cheesecake. All other parts of the cheesecake, as well as everything in the Eton Mess recipe is already gluten free.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

This is from Nigella Lawson’s book – Feast. In my opinion Nigella is one of the queens of homemade puddings (the other being Delia Smith) and this recipe definitely did not disappoint. The only tip I have when making this is to try and use the food processor to mix the ingredients. If you use a kitchen aid or do it by hand you risk getting too much air in the mixture or not mixing enough and ending up with a grainy texture to your cheesecake.

FOR THE CHEESECAKE BASE

2 cups graham cracker crumbs (or gluten free ginger snaps)

1 stick butter, soft

FOR THE FILLING

1 15oz can unseasoned pumpkin puree

1 cup sugar

6 eggs

juice of 1/2 lemon

1 1/2lbs cream cheese

Place the graham cracker crumbs in a food processor and then add the butter, cut in pieces. Process until the crumb mixture starts to clump together like damp sand.

Press the crumb mixture into the bottom of a 9in springform pan to create an ven layer. Put the pan in the fridge while you make the filling. Preheat the oven to 325F.

Put the pumpkin puree and cream cheese into the processor and run the motor until the cheese blends into the pumpkin. Add the sugar and with the motor running, break the eggs one at a time down the tube of the processor. Scrape down and process again, adding the lemon juice and blitzing to make a smooth mixture.

Wrap the outside of the crumb-lined springform pan with plastic wrap. Give a good few layers to make sure everything is completely waterproof. Now sit this on a large piece of double-layered heavy-duty aluminium foil and bring it up around the edges of the pan to make a nest. Sit the foil-covered springform pan in a roasting pan.

Scrape the cheesecake filling into the springform pan, and then pur recently boiled water in the roasting pan to a level approximately halfway up the cake pan.

Bake for about 1 3/4 hours, or until the filling has set with only a small amount of wobble left at its centre; it is worth remembering that it will continue to cook as it cool down. Take the pan out of the water bath and sit on a cooling rack, removing the foil as you do so. When it is cool enough, put the cheesecake in the refrigerator overnight, before removing the sides of the pan to slice.

For my version of Eton Mess, see my previous blog: “If Heaven Was Made of Meringue, This is What it Would Taste Like!

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What a week, what a show…Recording my first live CD

It felt good being back in Atlanta again. After so much time on the road and recently spent writing in Nashville I love the opportunity to get back to the city that has become my first American home.

A chance to drive down familiar roads, catch up with friends, and to start rehearsals for my show at The Red Clay Theatre just north of the city, in Duluth.

This was the first week of band rehearsals but preparations for the show had been going on a lot longer. For this show I wanted to push the boundaries and really see what is achievable despite being an independent artist on an independent-sized budget. I wanted the audience to feel like they had seen a big show in the intimate setting of a 250-seat theatre.

I was venturing into areas that I had never been before – designing a lighting plan, timing the set to know how much space was left in between each song, costume changes, as well as recording and filming the whole night.

Luckily I had help. Lots of help from people who I cannot thank enough, and who worked so hard putting the show together with me. I now understand why those arena shows have hundreds of people on the team!

The day of the show went by in a blur. It reminded me a bit of how on your wedding day people tell you to take a step back and enjoy the moment. There was so much going on that it was a challenge taking it all in. Because of extra time needed sound-checking for the actual show and for the recording, as well as a few issues with positioning the new grand piano and a guitar breaking, I was still on stage at 6pm, only an hour before the doors were opening.

And I still had to film backstage interviews, get dressed, go through vocal warm ups, and eat some dinner! This is so often the scene before a show though, and there was so much riding on this particular one it was hard to relax. Somehow it all got done, and I was there right on time to walk onto the stage for the first song – a cover of Johnny Cash’s “Walk The Line”.

The set list for the whole show was:

Walk The Line / Folsom Prison
Look Around
Sweet Surrender
Smile
Close My Eyes
Love Me For A While
Piece of My Heart
Get Me Through Tonight
The Edge of Love
It Was Meant To Be
Green Eyes
Alone
Lost
Over The Rainbow
The Only Thing Real
Noah’s Song
To Be Loved By You
Best Year
At Last


I’m still working out which songs will be on the final live CD which I hope to have available by the end of the year. A good idea for some Christmas presents!

I’ll be putting up some live footage soon on my Website and Facebook page, as well as some photos from the show.

I can honestly say I learnt more from this show than probably all the others I’ve done combined, and maybe there are some things I’d change next time, but that’s what performing is all about. Learning and improving. And I can’t wait for the chance to do the next one…I’m already thinking of new ways to make it even bigger!

I’d like to say a big thanks to the team who helped bring the show to life:

Kip Connor – Recording 

Shalom Aberle – House sound, Red Clay Theatre

Eddie Owen – Owner

Zach Wetzel – Lights

Steve Sherrick – Videographer

Jolene Eyre – Wardrobe/ Styling

Lisa Stephenson – Hair styling

Scott Lowden – Photography

And to my wonderful band!

Tom “Panda” Ryan – Bass, Backing Vocals, Musical Director of the band

Jon Poole – Drums

Davis Causey – Electric Guitar

Jeff Box – Keyboards

Shannon Cochran – Acoustic/ Electric guitar

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A thought for those hit by the storm…

Unfortunately the joy of the weekend was followed by Hurricane Sandy – and it was shocking to see the devastation that unfolded in towns and cities where I have enjoyed playing shows and meeting people. I hope individuals and communities who have lost possessions, homes and even loved ones, will find the strength to get through a very difficult time.

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When searching for a perfect dessert, it’s hard to beat the good British Pud

While some people are addicted to reading the latest fashion magazine or finding out the gossip on the Hollywood grapevine, there is nothing I find more relaxing than sitting down with a good cookery book and reading it cover to cover.

Although I enjoy looking at lots of food related books, it’s really the desserts that get me going. For me, combining a few simple ingredients to create the most heavenly treats is one of life’s purest pleasures.

While I don’t usually need an excuse to start flicking through the brightly illustrated pages, this time there is a definite reason. The friend who owns the house I’m currently staying in is having a dinner party and I volunteered to make dessert. And this particular friend also happens to have been a food writer in years gone by so is not easy to impress!

For our last little gathering I made a variation on the British recipe for Eton Mess, adding some caramelised peaches and spun sugar pieces, and it went down a storm. So the pressure for a repeat success is on!

When I last visited the UK I brought back a cookbook that looked like it would stand me in good stead for some culinary reminders of home – Jamie’s Great Britain. It has some fantastically British sounding recipes in it like “Bubble and Squeak”, “Wee Scotch Eggs”, “Queen Victoria Sponge”, and “Humble Pea & Ham Soup with Fluffy Dumplings”.

That last dish is so British in fact that when the Capital was at its smoggiest, Londoners used to refer to a low visibility day as a “real Pea Souper”.

And of course the book wouldn’t be complete without a recipe for the dish loved by children and adults alike, and the very first thing I ever learnt to cook myself – Jam Tarts.

But I think this dinner party might call for something slightly more sophisticated than a plate of Jam Tarts, so the search continues.

The good thing about a task of this nature is the almost mandatory sampling of many kinds of puddings. Incidentally, one of the many interesting “lost in translation” moments since moving to America was finding out that “pudding” in the US refers to a smooth custardy dish, not simply as another name for any dessert as it does in the UK.

I found a trip to the Nashville Famers‘ Market was the inspiration that I needed, and with all the fresh and tasty looking apples that were in season, I decided to go with one of my favourite British recipes, Apple Crumble.

I usually serve apple crumble with hot custard or cream, but an even more perfect accompaniment I found was a recently discovered ice-cream by Talenti, called Sea Salt Caramel. I think this particular ice-cream goes perfectly with just a spoon, but on apple crumble it’s also fantastic. It’s a pretty decadent treat.

If you like the sound of Apple Crumble, there are loads of great recipes for it online. You can’t go far wrong with Delia Smith’s though, which you can find here, and she even has a handy conversion table on her site for measuring in cups: http://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/galleries/delia-waitrose-recipes/best-ever-apple-crumble.html

NB: The photo I used is not actually a picture of my apple crumble, due to it being so delicious that it all got eaten before I remembered to take a photo! So this one is borrowed from http://pincurlmag.com/tag/apple-crumble

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Back to Reality…An East Coast Tour, and a Live CD show

Callaghan East Coast Tour 2012

After taking 3 weeks off to visit friends and family in London, I am re-adjusting to life back in the US and getting straight back to my job of performing and making music.

I don’t often take breaks – partly because there are constantly too many things on my list to do! – but this one I think was well earned. After countless shows over the last few months to promote my album “Life in Full Colour” I was ready for some down time.

Touring, I find, is an interesting existence. Each day is carefully planned, so you know what time you have to get up, how many miles to the next venue, what time load in is, where you need to be for soundcheck, what time I’m on stage, meeting people after the show, and then driving to the hotel. Then it all repeats the next day, exactly the same routine, different place.

Assuming everything is going to plan it can be a relatively stress-free time, and getting to do what I love each night sharing my music with an audience gives me immense enjoyment.

But you can’t be on the road all the time, and it’s good to get some breaks from constantly performing to work on my playing, my voice, and to find the time to work on new song ideas.

So, after my mini break, I am very excited to be starting an East Coast tour in a few days with two other performers; Matthew Perryman-Jones and Matthew Mayfield. We’ll be starting the tour in Vienna, VA, and heading all the way up the coast hitting places such as Philadelphia, Boston, New York, Cleveland, Charlotte and finishing up in Asheville, NC.

You can see all of the dates and ticket details on my website www.callaghansongs.com/gigs

There’s also a very special show I’m currently working on for the end of October. On Saturday October 27th I’ll be performing a full band show at The Red Clay Theater just north of Atlanta, GA. It’s a fantastic 250-seat theater and the whole show is going to be recorded for a live CD that I plan to release before Christmas.

As much as I enjoy the acoustic shows I perform, getting to play with the full band is something else. The musicians are mostly from Shawn Mullins’ Band and mind-blowingly awesome! I love getting to experiment when I perform full band shows and do different versions of my songs, as well as some very surprising covers! You can find all the details about the show and get tickets from www.eddieowenpresents.com

Maybe I’ll see some of you there!

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Life in Full Colour #6 – Sweet Surrender

Callaghan "Life in Full Colour"

Blog # 6 – Sweet Surrender

I recently read a review of my album which described Sweet Surrender as a “woe is me” song. It has always interested me the ways people interpret songs and how different they can be from my original intention.

I have no problem with people taking whatever interpretation they feel when listening to one of my songs, in fact I’m just happy they’re listening! I always try and write in a way that isn’t so personal that it excludes someone else’s experience and ability to connect to a song.

Having said that, I found the review I mentioned earlier particularly interesting since it was the exact opposite of what I had intended the song to be about. For me, Sweet Surrender’s message is more ‘woe is you, I’m outta here!’

I’m sure a lot of people who have been in a less-than-ideal relationship can relate to the moment when you realise you’re not going to put up with it anymore and make the decision to walk away. Sometimes it can take quite a bit of determination to leave a bad relationship when there could be so many factors making you want to stay, but once you are free and clear you can gain a new feeling of strength and self-confidence.

I think the last verse of the song sums up the feeling for me:

Waking up alone in this silent motel room
Can’t believe you ever talked me into loving you
But there’s no use trying to turn back
All the time I gave to you
Cos it made me who I am 
Somehow I found the strength to walk away

Life is about taking chances, and a life in full colour has it’s highs and lows all of which contribute to who we are.

I’m happy with that reviewer or any other listener making up their own mind about what the song means to them. I think that’s all part of the power and enjoyment of music.

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LIFE IN FULL COLOUR #5

Callaghan "Life in Full Colour"

# 5 – Close My Eyes

This is my mini blog about each of the songs that make up my debut album, “Life In Full Colour”, and the stories and inspirations behind them. “Life in Full Colour” is now available on iTunes, Amazon, or www.callaghansongs.com

Love reckons hours for months, and days for years; and every little absence is an age ~ John Dryden

I think that quote sums up the intention of this song quite well. Being apart from someone you love can be so difficult, especially when you don’t know the next time you’ll see them again, or if maybe you’ll never get to see them again.

I wrote this song back when I was living in London and when the idea of moving to the US was still only a passing thought. I always knew that moving across the ocean and thousands of miles from my friends and family would be challenging but even now, after nearly 2 years of living in the States, and with all the friends I have here,  missing some people never gets any easier.

But for all the moments of heartache it has made me a lot more aware of not taking people for granted and treasuring every second you have.

None of us knows how long we’ll be around or how long our loved ones will be a part of our lives and for all the things which weigh on our minds every day and take up all our time, we should never forget to let people know we love them. So close your eyes and think of someone who makes you happy.

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The Countdown to Life in Full Colour #4

Callaghan "Life in Full Colour"

# 4 – It Was Meant To Be

This is my mini blog about each of the songs that make up my debut album, “Life In Full Colour”, and the stories and inspirations behind them. “Life in Full Colour” is released on iTunes May 1st.

In my last blog I mentioned co-writing, and this song “It Was Meant To Be”, happens to be another one of the co-writes on my album. Written with two other writers, one of whom was John Peppard (who also co-wrote the Grammy-winning song “In Another’s Eyes” by Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood).

This song seems to be quite an audience favourite – both at live shows and people telling me it has been played at their wedding, which I think is so cool!

“It Was Meant To Be” is an unadulterated, simple, straight-from-the-heart love song about the moment when you feel all the stars align and everything falls into place.

The song was written several years ago and has been recorded a few times in various different ways – stripped back and slowed right down on the piano (as on my EP “Nothing You Say”) to the full band version on the album. I really love the album recording and had great fun experimenting in the studio with new sounds like mellotron.

I’m sometimes asked what it’s like to sing the same song over and over again. I have no idea how many times I have sung “It Was Meant To Be” but it’s probably in the thousands. There must be something special about this song though because I get something different from it each time I perform it. I have a feeling I’m still going to be singing it years from now and I hope it continues to connect with the people who hear it.

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Countdown to “Life in full colour” #3

Callaghan-banner Life in Full Colour

# 3 – Nothing You Say

This is my mini blog about each of the songs that make up my debut album, “Life In Full Colour”, and the stories and inspirations behind them. “Life in Full Colour” is released on iTunes May 1st.

“Nothing You Say” is one of the older songs on the album. It was written several years back with a friend and very talented keyboard player called Luke Juby.

Luke and I wrote quite a few songs together – another co-write “If only for tonight” is also on this album.

Although I write a lot of songs on my own, I really enjoy co-writing because of the different places it can take you to. When you’re working with someone else or even several co-writers at once, ideas, stories, outlooks on life, opinions, emotions can all be multiplied. Of course, you don’t want to have too many writers on one song – the old “too many cooks…” saying probably applies quite well. But whenever I co-write I usually end up with a song that is definitely different than it would have been if I had written it completely solo.

One thing that’s interesting on this particular song is the piano part. The piano track that you hear on the finished album track is actually the very same one that was on the original demo for this song. And it’s pretty much because at the time of recording the album I wasn’t able to find any keyboard player that could play Luke’s part! When I perform the song live I do my own version on the piano, there’s no way I’d attempt what Luke plays. He has a style all his own and it’s part of what brings such an interesting feel to this song.

“Nothing You Say” was also the title track of an earlier EP I released on iTunes a few years back. But it was such a special song I knew I had to give it its rightful place on the album.

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How do you like your Grits in the morning…

Welcome to my new blog site!

It has taken me some time to figure out how to set this page up, but now that it’s here, I intend to use it!

I chose the name “Brits and Grits” because, being a Brit living in the USA, there are some things,like Grits, that have taken me some time to get used to!

I remember my first experience of eating grits was when I came over for a few weeks to Nashville back in 2007. I was staying in a hotel and saw them on the breakfast menu and decided to give it a try. I was seriously not impressed. I thought they had the consistency of wallpaper paste and even less flavour. Little did I know I had been misled by Instant Grits.

Well, fast forward a few years and I’m now living in the US, after deciding to move to Atlanta to record my album with Shawn Mullins. And thanks to an introduction to home made grits in Gainesville, Georgia, I’ve become a BIG fan of that gritty goodness whether they come plain, with baked apples, smothered in cheese, or served up with a pile of fried shrimp! I’ve even attempted to make a (somewhat lumpy) batch of them myself. Practice makes perfect though so I’ll keep trying!

So this blog is going to talk about all the weird and wonderful experiences of being a British woman living in the US of A. The food, the accents, the traditions, the every day and the extraordinary. And of course, as I’m a singer-songwriter, there’ll be a good amount of music chat too!

So I’m looking forward to sharing my thoughts and hearing yours.

And what I really want to know is….how do you like eating your grits?

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