A Spring Reading List


Wednesday, 23 March 2016

I love reading on a theme. A small selection of books which fit together nicely is just my cup of tea. As a little Easter gift to you, because you still bother to visit this neglected blog, I have put together a selection of spring reads from my bookshelves. Chosen not necessarily because all the action takes place in spring but because the voice of spring sings loud and hopeful in each.

The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge. 
Much-loved children's classic set in a fairy-tale version of the West Country. I first read it when I was about twelve and have loved it ever since.

Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas.
The lives of the inhabitants of a small Welsh town are described over the course of one spring day in this poem-play.

In the Springtime of the Year by Susan Hill.
A novel about grief set against the background of the changing seasons in the English countryside. Beautiful writing and not a gloomy read at all.

A Room With a View by E.M Forster
Lucy Honeychurch has her senses awakened in a field of violets in Italy.

An Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim
Another Italian spring. Delightful.

The Darling Buds of May by H.E Bates
Spring in Kent. Perfick.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
Hang spring cleaning!
As an aside, the chapter about Pan 'The Piper at the Gates of Dawn' makes an interesting companion to E.M Forster's short story The Story of a Panic.

Other books which spring to mind (see what I did there) are The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett and Chocolat by Joanne Harris which is a very appropriate read right now as the story begins on Shrove Tuesday and ends at Easter.

What have I left out? I'd love to know your favourite springtime read.

In My Kitchen


Saturday, 5 March 2016

All these dishes were inspired by ones I found on pinterest and pinned on my food board. I followed none of the recipes properly using them only as starting points adapting them to ingredients I had and methods I prefer.

Chocolate bites

Inspired by these . As easy as they look, simply melt chocolate, pour into silicon ice cube trays, add stuff and refrigerate.

I used one 200g bar of dark chocolate and one 200g bar of white chocolate. I added almonds and dried apricots to the dark choc, and cashews and dried cranberries to the white. I didn't spray the trays with cooking spray and had no difficulty removing the solid cubes. For the white chocolate I tried putting the nuts and fruit in first and dribbling the melted chocolate over them (see pic below). This didn't work quite as well as the dark version where I poured the choc in first as the chocolate didn't adhere to all the nuts.

 Really this is just a variation on the ubiquitous chocolate bark recipes you might have seen on pinterest at Christmas time. The ice cube trays certainly aren't mandatory but the dinky little cubes will make good lunch box fodder -if there are any left by Monday morning.

Rhubarb and leeks. Don't worry, they were not destined for the same dish. I was struck by how pretty their colours looked together. The rhubarb was simply stewed with a bit of orange juice and some ginger to eat with yogurt, or maybe turned into some sort of pud this weekend.

These are turkey meatballs inspired by these. I mixed a 500g pack of turkey mince with a handful each of breadcrumbs and parmesan, chopped onion, some herbs -basil and parsley, and some seasoning. I browned them  before adding a simple tomato sauce made from onions and passata and some spinach. I baked them in a covered dish for about half an hour before adding a sprinkling of grated mozzarella and baking for another 10 minutes.

Baked turkey meatballs

Those leeks went on a pizza of sorts inspired by this. I had a cooked chicken leg to use up as well as the leeks so I put them on a pizza with some ham. Instead of the usual tomato sauce I made a very thick white sauce flavoured with parmesan and spread that on the rolled out dough before topping with the cooked leeks, the chicken, the ham, and finally some grated mozzarella. I like grated mozzarella for pizzas because it doesn't make your pizza wet, also it's often cheaper than the fresh balls of mozzarella and it freezes well.

Chicken, ham and leek pizza
Not at all authentic, but proper lush.

Cake and Flowers


Sunday, 24 January 2016

Not for the first time I bring you cake and flowers. Daffodils and coconut buns. 

Coconut buns are a variation on old fashioned rock buns and dead easy to make. The recipe comes from my 1960 edition of The Good Housekeeping Cookery Compendium which I wrote about here.

Coconut Buns

Makes 16-18

Rub together 12 oz self-raising flour and 6 oz butter.
Add a pinch of salt if you have used unsalted butter.
Stir in 6 oz sugar and 4 oz desiccated coconut.
Add one beaten egg and enough milk to make a stiff dough.
Put rocky lumps of dough on a greased or lined baking sheet. Don't put them too close together.
Optional -for the cherry on the cake add a cherry to each cake!

Bake for 12-15mins in a very hot oven -the recipe said 450ºF which is 230ºC , this was a bit too hot I thought, I suggest 220ºC (200º fan) and keep an eye on them.

Best eaten fresh and if your blog is six years old today you are allowed to eat six coconut buns.

The Great British Year


Wednesday, 20 January 2016

It's cold. This morning there is hoar frost covering every surface. It takes me twice as long to walk to the shop because I keep stopping photograph it all. Now I am wrapped in a shawl with a warm laptop on my knees. Tom has brought me a double choc chip cookie back from work (Subway) and it's not half bad. There is coconut and sweet potato soup on the stove for lunch and a bright bunch of Cornish daffodils in a Cornishware jug on my windowsill and I think I like this time of year best of all.

But, wait, what about when it begins to get warmer, that day when the sun feels warm on your face after weeks of damp and cold, when the air is soft and scented with the first spring flowers? Surely that's the best time of the year? Or is it some weeks later when everything is suddenly the greenest it has ever been and you can practically hear it growing, and the woods are filled with bluebells. Or the long days of summer when all the windows are open and the kitchen is full of scarlet berries being turned into jam. Or late summer when the holidays are over and there are new beginnings, a welcome return to routine and the blackberries are ready to be picked for a crumble. Or is it later still when the apples and quinces are ready, pumpkins and squashes appear and the days shorten and chill. Or when fires are lit and you stir the pudding and catch a glimpse of sparkle just around the corner?

What I love about our wonderful, varied, ever-changing year is everything.

Cake of the Month ~ Christmas Clear-out Cake


Sunday, 3 January 2016

No, I don't feel like eating cake either. I'm all about light and healthy at the moment as I suspect you are. But the absence of a Christmas cake did not go unnoticed and I promised to knock up an every day fruit cake to make up for it.

Whilst assembling ingredients I found various little bits of this and little bits of that leftover from making florentines and other Christmas treats. Half a bar of chocolate, a few chunks of crystallised ginger, a handful of walnuts, the sticky remains of glacé cherries and candied peel and a spoonful of mincemeat. These I chopped up and weighed adding dried cranberries, dried apricots, raisins and sultanas to make up the 1½ lbs of mixed dried fruit.

I also added a teaspoon of ground ginger and used plain wholemeal flour plus 2 teaspoons of baking powder in place of the self-raising flour.

I am told it is a good cake but I still don't feel like eating any just yet.

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