One hundredth Post Giveaway!


Thursday, 26 August 2010

Welcome to my one hundredth post! I'm having a Giveaway. I thought I would be able to give away something quince related- a couple of quinces and maybe a pot of jelly but 100 has come around a good two months sooner than anticipated. I am bit amazed at how much I find to witter on about.

This is what I am giving away.

Some crocheted bunting to string up across your mantelpiece, window, wherever you like!

Many of you have been kind enough to say how much you like my photographs. I have had some Moo mini cards printed. They are teeny tiny, just 3cm x7cm. There are 25 cards all different. I think they'd look nice arranged in a clip frame. These will also be part of the Giveaway.

As well as the bunting and the cards there will be one or two other little treats one of which will almost certainly be chocolate :o)

So, if you have your own blog and would like to win my Giveaway simply leave a comment on this post. I will put your names in a hat and get whichever of my children is handiest to pick a winner.
I will leave the comments open until Friday the 3rd of September.

We are off to Cornwall tomorrow for what looks like a week of rain. We're looking forward to it though and C has promised lots of eating out- mainly of the fish and chips and pasty variety, no complaints from me. I love cooking as you know, but I'm not too keen on cooking in strange kitchens without the help of my well stocked storecupboard.

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  Yesterday was the funeral of my grandmother who reached almost 102 years. The day had its moments of sadness of course but by and large it was one of laughter. The whole family came and it was soooo nice to see everyone. The service was lovely, my dad and aunt spoke about gran's very long and very full life and I read a couple of her favourite poems, we sang her favourite hymn (Dear Lord and Father of Mankind) and at the end listened to her favourite piece of music -Delius' Walk to the Paradise Garden which was just beautiful. The children who ranged in age from 6 to 16 were all perfectly behaved and afterwards we went back to my parents' house for coffee, biscuits and cake. Cake and biscuits made by me, coffee made by my mum. As funerals go it was one of the best.

This is one the pieces I read at the service. My Gran's birthday was 15th September which is Battle of Britain Day. Gran found this in a church on the Isle of Man, it was written by a young man lost in the Battle of Britain 70 years ago.

If I should pass beyound man's thought, grieve not
 For He plans the pattern of the stars
Knows of my course, and if he wills
My destiny be life, then life I seek-
If death; then death is but the gateway to truth
Wider than all the sky and more
immense than all the universe.

The Quince Tree in August


Sunday, 22 August 2010

A few days early this month. I shall be busy on the 25th and the sun is shining today so I thought I'd take advantage of it and show you how The Quince Tree is coming along as summer draws to an end.

There are no flowers in my garden at the moment, just leaves and fruit.

The quinces are swelling....


Already they give off a faint perfume.
The Romans called them meli melum - honey apples.

Susan Hill says in her delightful little book Through the Kitchen Window; 'Only a few quinces may be had, in which case there will not be enough to make into jelly, except to flavour one of apple.'
There are at least fifty fruits on my tree. I still have three unopened jars of last year's quince jelly and a tub of quince purée in the freezer. I'm starting to panic.

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My next post will be my one hundredth. I gather the done thing upon reaching one hundred posts is to have a giveaway in which fellow bloggers take part. I will be doing this so stay tuned ;o)

Deep Purple


Wednesday, 18 August 2010

No not the rock band.


There are some damson trees very close to our house. Yesterday elder son, daughter and I stationed ourselves beneath the trees. The fruit was too high for us to pick but by standing on a step-ladder and bashing the branches with a rake we managed to cause the damsons to rain down upon our heads, into our pockets and even into my bra. We gathered them up into our basket and took them home.

 I weighed them and found to my delight we had managed to gather 5 lbs. I usually buy about 5 lb from a farm shop so I was very pleased to have scored free fruit. Not only were they free but they were also sweeter and easier to stone than the ones I usually get.

Chutney is what I do with damsons. Chutney and gin. I put 2 lbs in the freezer to make into damson gin just as soon as I can afford a large quantity of gin. The rest I cut in half and stoned ready for chutneying.
My recipe is from good old Delia. You can find it here. It's also in Delia Smith's Complete Illustrated Cookery Course.

I copied it into my recipe journal :o)

All day the kitchen has been filled with the throat-catching smell of fruity vinegar and with wasps.

Chutney is the easiest thing to make, you simply throw everything into pan and leave it to cook slowly for a few hours. Then you pour it into sterile jars. I made four big jars (old mayonnaise jars- 600-700ml) plus one little jar.

Edit: The next day the chutney still seemed very runny in the jars so I poured it all back in the pan and cooked it for another hour. It successfully thickened up and I repotted it into the washed and resterilised jars. However this time I only had enough for three big jars. This was how much I made last year. It wasn't enough to see us through the year so I think I might make some more chutney later in the year, possibly apple.

Now we have to wait for three months for it to mature and mellow.

Blackberry Picking


Monday, 16 August 2010

Blackberry Picking

Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer's blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full,
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard's.

We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn't fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they'd keep, knew they would not.

Seamus Heaney

Blackberry picking heralds the end of summer for me. Driving through the countryside I see fields of wheat stubble and hedgerows heavy with berries, autumn is around the corner and I can hardly wait.

 As for blackberrying, I've had a much easier time of it than Seamus. No trekking round soggy hayfields and cornfields for me, just an amble up my garden with a bowl in hand. No scratches, my blackberry is thornless. Its berries are large and juicy and they are not going to be left in a byre to rot because I have a freezer. Sensible me.

But what to do with them? When Milly Molly Mandy brings home a handful of blackberries she gives one to her father;

'Ah! that makes me think the time for blackberry puddings has come!
Then she gave one to Mother, and asked her what it made her think of. And Mother said, 'A whole row of pots of blackberry jam that I ought to have in my storecupboard!'.
Then she gave one to Grandpa and Grandpa said it made him think of 'Blackberry tart!'
And Grandma said, 'Blackberry jelly!'
And Uncle said, 'Stewed blackberry-and-apple!'
And Aunty said, 'A plate of fresh blackberries with sugar and cream!'

I'm with Mother, my jam stores are very low. The blackcurrant jam I made last month has all gone. I shall freeze what I pick for the next couple of weeks until there are enough to jam. I hope to have some left over though, for puddings and pies as well.

This illustration is from the wonderful Food In England by Dorothy Hartley, which might just be my most favourite book ever. Her lovely informative illustration shows when the berries ripen and the best way to use them. My bowlful should be eaten raw according to Dorothy, maybe we will.

They're Back


Thursday, 12 August 2010

I may be some time.

While I was in the shower another load appeared.

Then younger son said 'what shall I do with my dirty washing?' To which I replied 'leave it in your bag until next year's camping trip and then you won't have to pack'. He got the message.

They have returned smelling of woodsmoke with tales of shooting stars and campfires. C has work tommorow so he's gone to buy razors. The Grizzly Adams look doesn't go down well in the office.

A Tale of Two Lists


Wednesday, 11 August 2010

They come home tomorrow. Some preparations had to be made. This morning I have baked four loaves, made 4 dozen flapjacks, made a bottle of currant cordial and a batch of chocolate lollies.
I have also been grocery shopping. Here's my list.

A typical family shop for me. Note the baking ingredients and economical meat and fish options. The cheese was a big chunk of Cheddar, and it was 14 pints of milk and darn it I forgot the golden syrup.

Compare and contrast this list with one I made last Friday when I was shopping just for me.

No baking ingredients, expensive meat and fish, expensive cheese and other luxuries -ice cream is something I rarely buy. I think I probably spent the same amount on food and drink for myself since last Tuesday as I did today for all five of us. Shocking isn't it? Mind you, if I had to live by myself permanently (God forbid) I would be much more thrifty, this was a holiday after all.

 If I'm honest I'm glad to get back to sausages, mince and cheese sandwiches. For despite the fact that my fruit and veg intake has been high I have overindulged. Too much cream, butter, chocolate, alcohol and rich cheeses. This has had an adverse effect on my weight loss efforts. So bad in fact that I'm not going to disclose my weight this fortnight, suffice to say I shall be redoubling my efforts over the next fourteen days!

On the subject of growth, here is something that I am happy to see grow in size.

My hook is ablaze at the moment. I can't stop making these grannies. I'm finding that against expectations I'm really liking working with a limited colour palette. I just love the way each square is different but the same. I think the finished blanket is going to look great.

And now if you don't mind I must get back to them :o)

Vintage Granny Squares


Monday, 9 August 2010

It's about time there was more crochet on this blog and less food don't you think?

These are my vintage granny squares. I made them this weekend.

I'm really very pleased with this colour combination. It isn't what I originally had in mind at all. The white and red yarns were not part of the plan to begin with, but I saw this beautiful granny square blanket  by Teawagon and was struck by how effective the addition of white and red was and what a lovely vintage feel they gave to the blanket.

This morning I went shopping for more yarn and as I took my little bundle of yarn snippets from my Cath Kidston bag I noticed how closely they matched it.

The vintage vibe is definitely there.

 I have seven colours and the squares have seven rounds, a round in each colour. I'm making them in pairs, one the reverse of the other.


All the yarns were ones I had in my stash and are all double knitting acrylic yarn except for the red which is Rowan Pure Wool DK. I tried to get an acrylic red to match (to keep the costs down) but they were all too orangey-red. the Rowan red is a lovely dark blood red (the photo below doesn't show it very well). I'm using a 4mm hook.

My vintage grannies are going to be a blanket for my daughter's bed. If she doesn't like it then it can be a camping blanket. I think she will like it though. I hope so :o)

A Quiet Night In


Saturday, 7 August 2010

To be honest most of my nights are both quiet and in. Yesterday was a bit special though.
I happened upon this idea in Appetite by Nigel Slater.

It seemed just the thing for a Friday night alone. Scallops are way too expensive to buy for a family of five but for one they are a definite possibility.


Followed by this.
It's another Nigel Slater idea from his TV series -Simple Suppers. Hot green beans tossed with ham and cheese, in this case heavenly Gorgonzola dolce.

I ate all this lovely food whilst watching An Affair to Remember with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr. I'd never seen it before -wonderful, wonderful.

After that I watched Daniel Craig. It was Alice's fault, but I'm very grateful to her because Daniel Craig and his speedos were very, very nice.

Today I have crochet to block and crème brulée to make. Steak with blue cheese tonight, yum.

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Thank you for your kind comments about my recipe journal. Also thanks for the book recommendations. 

My Favourite Cookbook


Thursday, 5 August 2010

I have lots of cookbooks. I love buying new cookbooks, they inspire and excite me. But the truth is I rarely cook from them. Don't think I waste my money buying them though. On the contrary it is by reading many cookbooks that I have learnt to cook without cookbooks. When you have read ten recipes for stew you no longer need to follow one. You can do your own thing. I tend to 'do my own thing' most of the time.

But there are some recipes I do follow, especially baking recipes where measurements have to be considered. I've shared quite a lot of these favourites here. These have come from a variety of cookbooks, for the most part from unassuming little cookbooks without gorgeous photography or a famous author. Some have come from the internet.

For a while I'd been thinking that it would be a good idea to collect these recipes into one book so that my children can reproduce our family favourites, and also so that they're all in one place. I was reminded of this plan by Petit Filoux's post here.  I did a bit of googling and came across the Moleskine Recipe Journal. I'm a sucker for stationery and I fell hook, line and sinker for Moleskine's video.

I customised some of the tabs. I decided an 'appetisers' section was not going to be necessary but a 'baking' one most definitely was. I swapped  'first courses' for a 'lunch' section using one of the stickers provided and  'cocktails'  has become the more useful 'preserves and drinks'.

I made a mosaic of some of my food photos and printed it. I cut the little pics up and used them to illustrate my recipes. I did some little drawings too.

It was fun.

Click on these pics and you will be able to read my scrawl more easily.

I love how personal my recipe journal has become and I've really been enjoying filling it up with our favourite things. It is without doubt my favourite cookbook. 

By the way, two of the best cookbooks for teaching you how to cook without a recipe are Appetite by Nigel Slater and The Modern Cook's Manual by Lynda Brown. My favourite and most used book for baking is TheUltimate Cake Book by Mary Berry.

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Thank you for your comments on my last post :o) I am enjoying my me-time so much. Today I have been shopping and bought myself some treats -Waterstones are doing a 3 for 2 thing on fiction and I've added two new fragrant room oils to my collection (not that I need them yet as my freesias are still going strong). Mozzarella wrapped in pancetta is on the menu tonight (an idea from Appetite) served on top of a large mushroom with some salad leaves. I've got a bottle of shiraz and Lovefilm have sent me two romantic films one with George Clooney and another with Robert Downey, so I'm all set :o)

Anyone read these? I know I'll enjoy the Susan Hill but the others are a bit of a leap of faith.

Just Me


Tuesday, 3 August 2010

They've gone. For the next nine days C and the children will be in a tent on Bodmin moor, actually they're in three tents this year- the boys have their own. As I think I mentioned I don't camp. My sister-in-law does however. There was a bit of a delay in setting off this morning. C had the car packed at nine but sis-in-law didn't arrive until a quarter past eleven. Guinea pig incident apparently. Now ex-guinea pig. Something to do with kidney stones. Lord I am glad we don't have pets.

A tiny portion of what they took with them. you need a LOT of stuff when you go camping. That kettle is great isn't it? I really ought to crochet them a blanket to take with them next year.

I've been busy since they left. I've been to Waitrose to stock up on a few treats, to the farm shop for cherries, raspberries and strawberries, I've hoovered everywhere (won't need to do that again while they're away), I've done the laundry, done the ironing, washed the kitchen floor and the bathroom is so clean and fragrant I might go in there and not come out until they return. 

One of my treats. The scent from these freesias is breathtaking, I've never had such delicious ones.

In the beginning I used to resent the camping trips. Even though I had no desire to go with them I felt left out and lonely and I could never sleep properly. Now though I've come to regard them as my holiday too, a chance to have a complete break from my usual routine. I love it. One of the best things is being able to eat the food I really love. I have a lot of main course salads, lean meat, fish and seafood and delicious cheeses. I tend to eat less bread and other carbs. I don't bake because the kids aren't here so there are no biscuits and cakes to tempt me. I do indulge though, meringues, ice cream and chocolate generally make an appearance. And of course a couple of glasses of wine in the evening :o)

Lunch - salad with goat's cheese croutes. Cherries to follow.

An aperitivo -Campari and prosecco inspired by Hardaker and Pope.

Supper - chicken with tarragon and cream.


Tomorrow I plan to tackle my daughter's room. She didn't seem very interested in getting it organised so I thought I'd do it without her.

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