* Failing to find any damsons at all. Last year I'd made my chutney by now. The trees I picked from last year not only have no damsons on them but there are no signs of fallen fruit anywhere. What happened?
*Hoping there'll still be some damsons in the farmshop when we get back from our holiday.
*Baking a huge batch of oaty biscuits to take on holiday with us tomorrow.
*Cooking bolognese sauce to put in the freezer so we can have a homecooked meal when we return.
* Placing an order with Ocado to be delivered on the evening we return.
* Deciding which books to take with me. Fiction is sorted - Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers and The Necropolis Railway by James Martin -but I've not quite decided which cookbooks to take yet. I have to have some cookbooks, not to cook from you understand, I just need cookbooks with me at all times. I'm leaning towards my four Diana Henry books but maybe I'll take The Pauper's Cookbook by Jocasta Innes and The Thrifty Cookbook by Kate Colquhoun since Charlie is prophesying no money for Christmas and advocating the need to cut down on food spending. This is something of a habit with him at this time of year.
* Wondering if I need to take all my lenses with me. Yes, I do.
* Booking a table at the pub in the village we are staying in for tomorrow evening.
*Trying to wash, dry and iron everything.
* Getting very excited at the prospect of a week relaxing in Cornwall.
* Celebrating George's excellent GCSE results.
* Counting the quinces on the quince tree and trying not to panic.
My neighbours are getting more than they bargained for.
The Quince Tree is on holiday until 2nd of September.
(My children really do say huzzah. I blame Pirates of the Carribbean.)
Every time I put a chicken in the oven they rise up and call me blessed.
It sizzles away filling the house with the best smell in the world.
Out it comes burnished and crisp-skinned.
I make gravy in the roasting tin, scraping up all delicious bits that have stuck to the pan.
I thicken it with some flour, not a lot, but enough to make proper gravy. My children won't let me get away with serving the pan juices as gravy, and I don't blame them.
We feel shortchanged if there are no roast potatoes.
I always imagine there will be another two meal's worth of leftovers but with two teenaged boys this is becoming a vain hope. I am tempted more and more to roast two chickens together, one to feast on and one for leftovers.
Katie brought me a bunch of elderberries to add to the posy of garden flowers I picked on Tuesday.
I had to duck to avoid the boughs of haws as I cycled to the shop. My neighbour's rowan tree is ablaze with scarlet berries and the crabs continue to fall. Charlie has found a new use for them; I discovered him throwing them up at the open bathroom window-
'Did you see that? I got one in!'
'I hope you aren't going to do that with the quinces when they start to fall'.
My thornless blackberry is disappointing this year. Just a couple of handfuls to be had.
I combined them with a few late raspberries, some local apples and plums to make this freeform tart.
For several days the collection of bread crusts in my bread bin had been growing. I had the beginnings and the endings of three loaves to use up. I was inspired by an idea in Food From Plenty by Diana Henry for breadcrumbs flavoured with herbs, mustard and lemon peel tossed with flageolet beans.
I thought it might work on a bigger scale.
Ingredients for five people
(quantities are estimates as I used what was to hand)
6 crusts of bread -about 12 oz
Butter, about 3 oz
Olive oil, a good glug
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
A handful of sun-dried tomatoes in oil
Some sprigs of basil
Parmesan cheese -a piece about 4 inches by 1inch (the point of one of those triangles of Paremsan)
A handful of broad beans (what I had left of a bag of frozen beans, fresh would be even better), cooked and skinned
Green beans, a fat handful, cooked
Chickpeas, about two handfuls, tinned or previously soaked and cooked
4-5 rashers of bacon, cooked and cut into little bits
I tore up the crusts and put them in the food processor until they were reduced to coarse crumbs with some big pieces remaining.
I melted some butter with some olive oil and two crushed cloves of garlic and tossed the crumbs with it in a big roasting tin.
I baked the crumbs at 180°c/160°c fan oven for 12 minutes.
While that was happening I put a good handful of sun-dried tomatoes with some of their oil in the food processor along with a chunk of parmesan and some basil.
I tossed this tomato paste with the toasted crumbs.
I combined the flavoured crumbs with some chickpeas, some cooked green beans and broad beans and some crisp pieces of bacon.
A final drizzle of olive oil and to the table.
(It will be warm by the time it is ready.)
This would work with other types of beans such as cannellinis or flageolets. Other vegetables could be used; cooked cauliflowers florets, roasted red peppers or courgettes would be good.
The bacon could be omitted to make a vegetarian dish or it could be replaced with chorizo or other cured sausage.
Some of the recipes do not appeal to us today; moor fowl (moorhens) served with red cabbage, Norwich cygnets, stewed lamb's tails, rook pie for example.
But, many more do; savoury baked eggs, collier's pie (flaky pastry filled with cheese, bacon and onion), baked white fish, bacon and green peas, skinless sausages, Madras chicken curry, Stoodliegh Rectory stew (Irish stew), strawberry shortcake, poor knights of Windsor (eggy bread), and a Worcester recipe for beef olives are all things I'd put on my table.
The recipe I most want to try is Grassy Corner Pudding. To make it you must line a mould with lemon jelly, one assumes not from a packet, then you make a pint of strawberry cream and a pint of vanilla cream. You make layers with the two creams and 'put it on ice' (the fridge). If I can just work out how to line a mould with jelly.
Although I have had this book a long time today was the first time I cooked from it.
Ham loaf seemed a nice, simple family meal.
My ham was not very fatty and wasn't quite 1 lb so I made up the difference with some finely minced streaky bacon.
Is it a new strategy to beat the All Blacks by tricking them into thinking we are them?
It won't work, and if they don't change it back to white I shall be supporting Wales in the World Cup.
A supper of spiced grilled lamb.
An onion, a couple of cloves of garlic, a couple of teaspoons of ras-al-hanout spice blend, bit of salt, some olive oil and a tablespoon of honey all blended together in the food processor. The lamb left to marinade in this mixture for an afternoon then grilled on a hot griddle.
Served with some minty yogurt.
To boil a gammon joint in cider, apply a crust of dark brown sugar, stud with cloves and bake for tomorrow's homecoming supper. We will eat it with baked potatoes and homemade chutney.
Also planning to ice the chocolate almond cake I made today for George's birthday. We didn't have time to eat a birthday cake before they left so tomorrow is a cake day.
This is one of my favourite meals. It's also really quick and easy to cook.
To speed up cooking I placed the chicken breast between two sheets of clingfilm and bashed it with my rolling pin until it was about half an inch thick. I do enjoying bashing things with a rolling pin. I then put some flour on a plate and coated the chicken with it. Then into a pan of foaming butter it went. When the chicken was nearly cooked through I poured in a good glug of white wine and some tarragon. I let it bubble away for a few minutes until the chicken was properly cooked. I put the chicken on a plate and added another good glug, this time of double cream. I let that bubble too and added some pepper. The best thing about making it for one is that there is always plenty of sauce. A blob of dijon mustard is nice instead of tarragon, or make it with pork steaks and cider, or with beef or lamb and red wine.
The warm breeze moving through my house is very pleasant.
This is perfect summer weather for me. I'm not a fan of extreme heat. I don't like lying in the sun and I loathe the necessity for suncream.
I like summer to be warm and pleasant. I like summer rain too, I especially love listening to it fall at night through the open bedroom windows. I love the smell of the garden after rain has fallen. I really love a summer thunderstorm, I hope we have one soon.
I'm not one to moan about our British summers. Experience of 46 summers has taught me that they are not three months of continual heat and they never have been. Sometimes we have a very hot spell -July 1995 when I was heavily pregnant with my first child was stifling. Sometimes we have a very wet spell -July 2007 when the end of term coincided with most of Worcester being flooded. Sometimes we have no rain for weeks -summer of 1976 when we could fry eggs on the manhole cover in our garden and we actually prayed for rain in church. Mostly a British summer is a mixed bag of pleasant and slightly less pleasant weather.
I think those who complain about the lack of continual heat remember only the sunny days of childhood beach holidays and forget the wet days.
Perhaps they have also been spoilt by too many foreign holidays.
That's what former weatherman Bill Giles says in this week's Radio Times, he also says that 'between now and mid-September there will be periods, say, of four to five days at a time, of warm, sunny days- especially in the last week of August and into September'
We're off to Cornwall from August 26th to September 2nd .
To the 1981 BBC Radio 4 dramatisation of The Lord of the Rings. One of my favourite 'listens'.
I had reached the bit where Frodo, Sam and Pippin are enjoying the hospitality of Farmer Maggot. The farmer offers his guests a meal of bacon and mushrooms. I realised I had both in the fridge, and eggs as well. Supper sorted.
To balance the fried animal protein I was planning for supper I made this lentil and roast pepper salad for lunch. I dressed it with a pungent dressing of mint, parsley, anchovies, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil.
A shopping trip tomorrow to buy food for my last few meals alone, and a big box of washing powder.