The Jam List


Thursday, 30 August 2012

I took an inventory

Marmalade 1
Quince jelly 3
Crab apple jelly 7
Damson jelly 6
Damson jam 3
Blackcurrant jam 1
Raspberry and redcurrant jam 10
Strawberry jam 7
Damson chutney 4 (big jars)

It really doesn't matter that the crab apple tree has only a handful of fruit on its branches, that the blackberries are small and wizened, or that there are no quinces at all. We have enough.

I might need to make some more marmalade before the Seville oranges reach the shops in January, lime or pink grapefruit marmalade perhaps. But no more jam or jelly this year.
I made my latest batch yesterday. I don't often make strawberry jam preferring to utilise free fruit, but yesterday was such a miserable wet day I thought I would brighten it by filling the house with the smell of boiling strawberry jam.

Claret and Gold


Monday, 27 August 2012

I am often struck by how frequently the random photos I select for a blog post seem to have the same colour scheme. Serendipitous you might say. Today my pictures are all claret and gold. The colours of late summer.

Four big jars of damson chutney.

Two new books.
Diana Henry's new book on preserving Salt Sugar Smoke. What to make first? Lime and rum marmalade, labneh, mango, passion fruit and lime jam, anchoiade, Constance Spry's chilli sherry, Zuni café's red onion pickles, blood orange curd?
Pride and Prejudice. Such a long time since I read it. This Penguin Clothbound Classic with its design of golden swans is making it even more of a joy second time round. Clothbound classics are designed by Coralie Bickford Smith. Christmas and birthdays taken care of for years to come.

Cider with blackberry liqueur. Just perfect for a late summer evening.

And lastly a cake for August. A Crumbleberry Cake

It's a simple cake which is topped with fruit and finished with a scatter of crumble before baking.

A pudding cake rather than a snack cake. Moist and luscious, we ate it with whipped cream. I used redcurrants and whitecurrants but this cake is infinitely adaptable. Use whatever is in season; currants, raspberries, blackberries, cranberries, gooseberries, blueberries, rhubarb, halved plums, damsons, sliced apples, sliced peaches, even tinned fruit.

Crumbleberry Cake

For the crumble
Rub together until you have something resembling breadcrumbs.
I did this in the food processor and overdid it a bit. I nearly ended up with pastry which is why my crumble has big doughy lumps in it. The cake was none the worse for it.
60g plain flour
60g butter
Stir in
30g caster sugar
Add half a teaspoon of spice if you like. For example- cinnamon with apple or plum, ginger with currants.
Set aside while you make the cake.

Grease and base line a 23cm loose-bottomed cake tin.

Beat together until light and fluffy
250g soft butter
250g caster sugar
Beat in
4 eggs -one at a time.
Fold in
75g ground almonds
100g plain flour

Scrape into the tin and top with your chosen fruit.
I used two large handfuls of  frozen currants -enough to cover the cake batter about 1cm deep.
Sprinkle over the crumble.
Bake for 40 -60 mins at 180°c (160°c fan oven)
My cake took 60 mins because I used juicy, frozen fruit which made the cake very moist. I f you choose a dryer fruit, sliced apples for example, your cake will take less time to cook. Start testing after 40 mins by sticking a skewer into the middle. When it comes out of the cake clean it's done.

I Love Not Camping ~ Day Seven


Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Last day. And just as well. Idleness and gluttony are not attractive qualities. I find I need useful occupation.
Today I went to the farmshop to buy a bushel of apples for Tom (he would live on them if he could). There I found the first of the new season's crop. I found damsons also. The damsons growing near my house  have had their lower branches hacked off by those skilled gardeners otherwise known as 'the council' and the fruit is now out of reach. I bought four pounds of damsons; three for chutney and one for gin. I still have plenty of last year's damson jam and jelly but the chutney is down to the last jar.

This morning I stoned the damsons for chutney-making tomorrow. This is a tedious and sometimes painful task (slippery fruit and sharp knives) but once it is done chutney-making is simply a matter of throwing everything into a pan and cooking it. I find repetitive jobs like stoning damsons and chopping vegetables very satisfying; they provide opportunity for thinking one's own thoughts whilst being productive.

I opened the last jar of damson chutney to eat with my sausages and baked potato and was so glad I would soon be making more.

I Love Not Camping ~ Days 5 and 6


Monday, 20 August 2012

Yesterday's lunch.
BLT with roquefort and no lettuce. In fact a BRT.

Yesterday's supper.
Fried goats' cheese. Easy to do -dunk discs of goats' cheese in beaten egg, roll in breadcrumbs and fry in olive oil until beginning to melt. 

I followed this lovely little supper with Shadowlands, in which Anthony Hopkins is superb.

My only nightie has been in this sorry state for over a year now. The holes have spread right down the back.
The time to make do has come to an end. 
I made a trip to M&S today where I found two pretty white nighties.
 Now I have come over all Jane Austen and I shall be watching Sense and Sensibility (for Alan Rickman rather than Hugh Grant) later this evening.

This evening's supper was probably the most delicious thing I have eaten during my not camping holiday.
Baked eggs with cream.

 Serves one.
Butter a small ovenproof dish.
Crack two eggs into it. Sprinkle over a little grated gruyère if you like -I do like- before finishing with a scattering of parsley and a few spoonfuls of cream.
Bake at 190°c (170°c fan oven) for 15-20 minutes.
The first time I made baked eggs I followed Elizabeth David's instructions and baked them for 4-5 minutes. 
Don't do this. They will not just be underdone; they will look exactly the same as they did when you cracked them into the dish. Not even warm.

You can of course jazz these eggs up with a little chopped ham, chopped tomato, cooked mushrooms, fried bacon. Tarragon or chives instead of parsley would be delicious.

I Love Not Camping ~ Day Four


Saturday, 18 August 2012


I have eaten tarragon chicken for supper. I am stuffed. I haven't felt hungry since Tuesday. This, I feel, is not a good thing.

I have bought way too much fruit and salad. Clearly when the kitchen is full of cheese, lemon posset and chocolate biscuit cake very little fruit and veg is going to be eaten.

The bathroom feels very odd. No bottles of nail polish, hair thingummies, wet towels or toothpaste smears. No need to wipe the loo everyday, no mushy soap. It is dry, airy and sweet smelling.

There is no laundry to do. Or ironing. Or hoovering.

It is lovely to be able to do a jigsaw for as long as one wants without having to stop to feed people.

A break from crinolines is indicated so I shall watch Rear Window which is a masterpiece, followed by Match of the Day. Yes really, I love MOTD.

Despite the warmth there is a breath of autumn in the air.

I Love Not Camping ~ Day Three


Friday, 17 August 2012

A little light ironing
A jigsaw finished
A delicious no-cook lunch of salami, olives, melon, roquefort and tomatoes
An afternoon with Nigella and Nigel
A fish supper and a lemon dessert
A glass or two of cold sauvignon blanc
Jane Eyre, the Toby Stephens and Ruth Wilson version
Fresh linen on my bed tonight and another few chapters of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

I Love Not Camping ~ Day Two


Thursday, 16 August 2012

Today I have;
 begun a jigsaw, unclogged the drain filter of the washing machine, and cleaned out my kitchen cupboards. Why am I still storing the paracetamol and matches 'out of reach of children' when my children are nearly all taller than me?
I have eaten cherries and strawberries for breakfast, bacon and gruyère baguette for lunch and steak for supper.
Now I am going to finish a tub of Haagen Dazs, pour a glass of wine and watch North and South.

I Love Not Camping ~ Day One


Wednesday, 15 August 2012

They have journeyed into the West through wind and rain to be at one with nature
 (Charlie and the kids have gone camping in Aberystwyth).
I, needless to say, do not feel the need to join them.

After they had gone I drove to Waitrose to buy treats. Indeed it was a treat to wander around the supermarket after several months of having my groceries delivered.
I bought a whole box of cherries, a ripe cantaloupe melon, bags of green salad leaves, big beef tomatoes, a beautiful steak, a piece of pearly cod, tiny dark olives and pungent French cheese not forgetting plenty of chocolate, ice cream and wine.

It poured with rain when I got back. I thought of the campers pitching their tents in it and fervently hoped they would not be tempted to return.

 I decided to wash my granny squares blanket. Tomorrow I will be attempting to repair the ravages of the washing machine.

I took solace in an elderflower G&T.*

Then I made salt and pepper squid for my supper with garlicky mayonnaise.

Now I am pouring a glass of Shiraz and preparing to watch Julie and Julia which seems like the perfect thing to watch at the start of what promises to be seven days of delicious food; also Google tells me that today is Julia Child's birthday.

* My gin came with a free sample of elderflower cordial plus this recipe;
50ml gin, 5-10ml elderflower cordial, 150ml tonic, lots of ice.

The Party's Over


Monday, 13 August 2012

Last night we all gathered in front of the telly to watch the closing ceremony.

Tom 'Muse are going to be on'
Katie 'The Spice Girls are going to be on'
Me 'Nancy's son is going to be in it'
Charlie 'Paul McCartney better not be in it'
Me 'Oh I hope not, Paul McCartney singing Hey Jude for half an hour, please no'.

It begins
'Which one is your friend's son?'
'No idea, she said he's wearing blue body paint'
'Oh look Madness! Hooray!'
'One Direction!!! Yay!!'
'Oh god, not One Direction! bunch of  ****heads'
'No they are not!!'
'Who are those weirdos with pointed hats, the Ku Klux Klan?'
'No, they're the Pet Shop Boys'
'Pretentious eighties stuff Tom'
'Not George Michael' groans Charlie
'When are Muse coming on?'
'Oh no, not Jessie J'
'Listen, it's Imagine, I love this'
'They should get John Lennon to do it, that would be really good'
'Oh look, they have got John Lennon'
'Where are Muse?'
'Kaiser Chiefs! Great!'
'Bohemian Rhapsody! Everyone join in!'
'Oh they cut it short'
'One does not simply cut short Bohemian Rhapsody' says George outraged.
'I can't believe they are replacing Freddie Mercury with Jessie J!'
'Oh wow, I think David Bowie's about to come on.....oh,'s just some pointless supermodels'
'I want Muse'
'The Spice Girls, hooray!'
'Look Victoria Beckham is actually smiling'
'They're going to fire someone out of a cannon'
'It's Eric Idle'
'Oh I know this' says Katie, 'isn't it from The Life of Saving Private Ryan?'
'Muse, Muse, Muse'
'Wow, a pirate ship, is Johnny Depp coming?, oh no it's Annie Lennox'
'Why does Matt Bellamy always sound constipated?'
'Mum he does not sound constipated, he's brilliant'
'Bono's another one who sounds constipated'

'Oh no the flames are going out'
I start singing along with Take That..don't close your eyes, don't fade away...'
'Mum, don't sing'
'I'm sad'
'I don't want the Olympics to end'
'Nor me'
'Never mind, the Paralympics start in a fortnight where the superhuman athletes compete. They're going to be awesome'

( I may have misremembered the running order of the many acts.)

I think I probably did watch every sport, every day, every moment. I absolutely loved the BBC coverage. The presenters and experts were all so wonderful especially Clare Balding who is my favourite. Most of all I shall miss hearing Michael Johnson's voice.
Now the Radio Times Olympic guide lies tossed in our recycling bin along with the milk cartons.

This morning I have woken up with a bad Olympic hangover.
'What am I going to do all day now?' I wailed to Charlie
'Housework!' he replied.

Domestic Comforts


Friday, 10 August 2012

'There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort'
from Emma

Much as I enjoy staying in the cottage we rent when we are in Cornwall, and it is a very well-equipped cottage, it lacks the real comfort of home.
While I was there last month I thought a lot about home comforts and how they contribute to the well-being of  those who inhabit a home. Being comfortable ranks high on my personal hierarchy of needs and is the main reason I don't camp.

These are my necessary domestic comforts ~

Clean, dry towels.

A bed, freshly made, preferably with line-dried linen.

Somewhere comfortable to sit in the evenings.

A shelf or table near the chair for a drink and  a book or two.

The makings of a quick meal in the kitchen; bacon and eggs, bread and butter, some crisp apples.

Coffee, tea or cocoa, whichever you love best, in a mug which feels friendly in your hand.

A pile of books.

A notebook and pen.

Simple things all of them.
 Maybe the reference to women in the last verse of Grace Noll Crowell's poem below is dated, but  mentally substitute 'one' for 'woman' and I think she speaks such sense. Sometimes we are so busy looking outwards for excitement that we fail to recognise that the simple, ordinary acts of daily living are what make us content.

I Have Found Such Joy in Simple Things

I have found such joy in simple things;
A plain, clean room, a nut-brown loaf of bread
A cup of milk, a kettle as it sings,
The shelter of a roof above my head,
And in a leaf-laced square along the floor,
Where yellow sunlight glimmers through a door.

I have found such joy in things that fill
My quiet days: a curtain's blowing grace,
A potted plant upon my window sill,
A rose, fresh-cut and placed within a vase;
A table cleared, a lamp beside a chair,
And books I long have loved beside me there.

Oh, I have found such joys I wish I might
Tell every woman who goes seeking far
For some elusive, feverish delight,
That very close to home the great joys are:
The elemental things--old as the race,

Yet never, through the ages, commonplace.
Grace Noll Crowell

Random Deliciousness


Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Quite honestly I'm finding it a challenge to get any cooking, baking or housework done at the moment with all this olympic distraction going on. I did manage to cook a few tasty things last week though.

These are fried lamb, hummus and feta pittas. I had leftover roast lamb to use up. I fried it until crisp with some middle-eastern spices, some onion and a few sultanas. To make the pittas I simply spread warm pitta bread with hummus, then sprinkled on a layer of lamb, followed by a mash of feta, yogurt and mint. Finally I topped them with diced cucumber.

My currant harvest is being stored in my freezer.
I took some of them out and layered them in a bowl with sugar and let them defrost.

I enjoyed some with yogurt.

But they really came into their own when eaten with meringues and cream. The crisp sweetness of the meringue, the bland richness of the cream and the burst of sharp currants were the perfect ménage à trois.

 I found the recipe below on Pinterest. It is Sun Dried Tomato, Basil and Brie Spread from Pastry Affair.

A really ripe wedge of Brie, some sun dried tomatoes and a sprig of basil all mashed together.


The olympics continue to distract me. A thought occurs to me about the modern pentathlon, which is as I'm sure you know, a combination of running, shooting, swimming, riding and fencing. This is my thought; what if the competitors were to wear white shirts like this.

And tight breeches. Wouldn't that be lovely?

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