February Sampler


Friday, 28 February 2014

A side effect of not blogging much is not having enough photos to make a decent sampler at the end of the month. I scraped my paltry collection of February photos together  and came up with this but I don't think it is one of my best.

Time to think about March. There will be pancakes, a 14th birthday, Mothering Sunday, daffodils and a new book to read and best of all the clocks will go forward and spring will be well and truly here by the end of it. Fingers crossed.

Old Faithfuls


Thursday, 27 February 2014

January was good, I had lots to say in January but February has been an arid month for good blog post ideas. Why? Blowed if I know. What I do know is that the less you do a thing the harder it becomes to get started again. I have no intention of getting out of the blogging habit so in order to warm up my blogging muscles again I am falling back on my old faithfuls - flowers and cake.

The cake is a Norfolk vinegar cake. It's an old recipe, a plain farmhouse cake made when the hens were off lay for it is eggless. I discovered it some years ago when searching for eggless cakes for Katie who couldn't tolerate them when she was little. It is not a moist cake but nor is it dry. It has a pleasant crumbly texture and it keeps well. The vinegar is undetectable in the finished cake but it helps the cake to rise without eggs (see the science bit below).

The recipe I use is in Favourite Norfolk Recipes by Dorothy Baldock (I have lots of these little books and they are full of excellent simple recipes for old fashioned food).

Norfolk Vinegar Cake

Grease and base-line a 9 " round cake tin which has a removable base.

Rub 8 oz butter into 1 lb of plain flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Stir in 8 oz sugar and 1 lb of dried fruit.

In a roomy jug measure out 8 fl oz of milk and 2 tablespoons of cider or white wine vinegar.
Blend 1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda and 1 tablespoon of milk.
Combine the bicarb mixture with the milk and vinegar. It will froth up*. Mix the frothy liquid with the dry mixture. It will not be very wet. Scrape it into the tin.

Bake for 30 mins at 180°c (160°c fan oven) then turn the temperature down to 150°c (130-140°c fan oven) for another 60 -75 mins.

*The science bit

First of all bicarbonate of soda is sodium bicarbonate is baking soda -I call it bicarb.

An acid (vinegar) + an alkali (bicarb) + moisture = carbon dioxide.  Carbon dioxide raises your cake, that's what is frothing about in your jug. It is a bit more complex than that but for cake purposes that's what you need to know.

Bicarbonate of soda it is not the same thing as baking powder.
Baking powder is mixture of bicarb and cream of tartar which is an acid. If you use it as a substitute for bicarb you will have too much acid and things will not rise properly. Some recipes require both bicarb and baking powder, this is because they also contain an acidic ingredient, buttermilk or yogurt for example. Extra acid means you will need extra alkali, so bicarb to the rescue.

So, you ask, why can't we leave out the vinegar and the bicarb and just use baking powder to make the cake rise?

Because then it would be Norfolk baking powder cake and not Norfolk vinegar cake, and presumably the recipe predates commercial baking powders.

Do feel free to correct any scientific inaccuracies, my only qualification in science is an o level in physical science which isn't really a proper subject.

There you are, cake, flowers and unexpectedly, chemistry.

And laundry drying on the washing line, another old faithful.

Small Delights (IV)


Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Blueberry yogurt pancakes with maple syrup. A delicious weekend breakfast.

The forsythia is beginning to bloom.

And the quince is budding.

Everything is so very green.

The sun felt warm on my face today. So very welcome.

It was our wedding anniversary today -19 years. That much? Good heavens. We went to the pub for lunch. 

George passed his driving test. Third time lucky. Big delight not small delight.

Why I Haven't Blogged For Ten Days


Thursday, 20 February 2014

I've been watching the Winter Olympics that's why. Absolutely glued to it. The telly goes on as soon as I get up (which was absurdly early on Monday because I forgot it was half term), and it stays on until Clare says goodnight at 8 o'clock in the evening. I am watching the bronze medal curling match as I write this and it's all getting pretty tense so apologies for typos.

Other reasons for not blogging include forgetting to take pictures, remembering to take pictures but finding my camera battery flat and then not being able to locate the charger, and plain old laziness.

I have been doing stuff though.
I knitted a new hat for Tom because his other one 'went all weird'. 
I've been doing a bit more creative mending but I'm afraid my mends won't hold up well to laundering so I'm holding off showing them until they've been through the wash a few times. 
I'm continuing to knit my shawl and scarf
I made a delicious barley stew based around the leftover sauce from a chicken casserole.
I made chocolate marble cake for the band when they came round to jam. It was much appreciated. 
On the day the band came round Katie and I went to Oxford. We went to the Cath Kidston shop -too floral, too expensive, the Natural History Museum -lots of small children, lots of buggies and lots of dino bones, we ate burgers at Byron's and I bought my March read - A View of the Harbour by Elizabeth Taylor.

In other news the River Severn has retreated, the sun has come out, my hellebores are blooming and the days are getting longer. At last. And GB (actually Scotland) has won a bronze medal in the women's curling, well done girls.



Monday, 10 February 2014

Worcester is, apparently, under siege according to the BBC. Of course it isn't. It is pretty wet though and some of the roads through the city centre are closed. We are fortunate to live on the northern outskirts of Worcester well away from the river on high ground. It can't be much fun to live near the river at the moment but it isn't the first time this has happened, I've lived here for twenty years and seen it like this several times. The racecourse and cricket ground are frequently under water. 1947 was much worse by all accounts.

View towards the cricket ground from the main bridge in Worcester

Worcester racecourse

The going is wet

Thank you to my guest photographer (my husband and his phone camera).

Just Now I Am.....


Thursday, 6 February 2014

Thinking how lovely the sunrises are at the moment. Thinking that they herald yet more rain.

Making an effort with the husband's packed lunches. He gets a plain cheese sandwich far too often. Today he had a bacon, egg and rocket baguette.

Making burgers for tea and covering every surface in the kitchen with a layer of grease, including my personal surfaces.

Wondering what to do with leftover sweet potato fries.

Creatively mending the holes in my jumper. Secretly hoping there'll be more holes to mend.

Finishing and enjoying tremendously my February book. The Vanishing Act of Esmé Lennox by Maggie O' Farrell is a page turner. The story is deftly told from three different points of view -two elderly sisters and their great niece/granddaughter. The story of what happened to Esmé is at once shocking and compelling. Not my usual sort of book at all but I am very glad I chose it.

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