Thursday, 27 November 2008

Christmas cake

I made the Christmas cake today. Now, I like traditions, and every year over the past 20 years I've made almost the same type of cake. Thi syear I decided on a change, and dug out a very old cookbook I have. It belonged to my paternal grandmother, possibly her mother before her. They lived in Cornwall, and this is "the first printed Cornish Recipe Book" according to the preface of the first edition; it's a book compiled in 1929 with contributions from Cornish WIs.. Sadly, it is minus a cover, but I aim to get one made for it to keep it in good condition to pass on eventually. There are some fascinating recipes for it, some written in dialect, covering teh normal range of cakes, meat dishes, etc, plus pasties, remedies, wine and HUGE cakes - take 5lbs of butter, 5lbs flour............. There are recipes for good old Cornish dishes in it - pasties, heavy cake, Cornish splits, saffron cake, etc. I was lucky to be given free choice of my aunt's cookery books when she died, and this was one of them.

I'd love to think my grandmother, and possibly my great grandmother, used this recipe for their Christmas cake - there are a couple of the stains on the pages, so it could well be.
Teh cakes are in the oven now - I have a large one and a smaller one; we'll try the smaller one out over teh weekend. If it's not Christmassy enough, I can make something else in plenty of time. :)

I love this time of year..........

Mother nature

Mother nature is indescribably amazing. I say indescribably because I have no words adequate to even begin to write about it. I'm not one for slushy pseudo-sentimental writing as it doesn't come from my heart, so that's it from me - Mother Nature is amazing!
Heading for the beginning of December, thoughts here are turning towards the winter solstice, midwinter, getting ready for cold and snow, rain and ice, should they happen. Getting in stores of fuel, both for fires and bodies, adding extra layers physically and mentally to better get through the winter months. But not Mother Nature - she is constantly on the go - the garlic I put in a while back has grown strong roots, the sweet peas are 4 " high now, there are lots of vegetables for ahrvesting in the garden, even some fruit still - the last of the raspberries, the medlars.........There are even flowers, all the more precious for their scarcity. One of my favourites is in the picture, the winter jasmine, brightening up the east wall of the house, always with generous amounts of flowers from mid - November. Creatures are about too - this moth paid a visit to the kitchen window last night; I don't know the species, but he stayed on the glass for a good few minutes before darting off somewhere else. The garden is full of birds, large and small, helping themselves to the feeders I keep well-filled. The shoots underground on the spring bulbs will be on their way too, although we can't see them. That last bit sums it up for me - it all carries on whether we are outside in amongst it, or inside looking out at it. It's a rare day when I don't stop to look or listen to soemthing that catches my attention outside. As I said, truly amazing.

Look what I got!!

Yes, I finally did it, and four days ahead of schedule too! 50,690 words officially, which is a few more than my own wordcount LOL So, it's done, and put away in its folder for now, but I think it has the makings of a book. I need to work on the meat of the book itelf, there's a lot that could be expanded on, plus the finishing touches, title, illustrations, cover, etc. A title is proving very elusive to me for some reason.
It's a book about what I know, and features rare breed chickens, spinning, lots of tea drinking, Scotland and a huge amount of wool. :) LOL
I actually enjoyed the whole thing, although MrL can't see the point of all that work "just for nothing"; ha, we'll see LOL

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

The novel

As you may have read, I'm taking part in NaNoWriMo - a month-long challenge to produce a novel (first draft type thing) of 50,000 words in the month of November. I am doing quite well, I think, and better than I thought. I had the outline of the story mapped out in my head before I started, which helped enormously - I had a beginning and an end, and all sorts of middle bits. I also have the back of the proverbial envelope/s, scribbled all over, making sense to only me. Turns out this book is an amalgamation of lots of bits that were milling around in my head waiting to be written down. It's a book I would like to read myself, and I'm writing about what I know - so, I've followed all the theories, and have now arrived at 42,084 words this morning, which I'm really pleased about. I even managed to find and insert into the right place the 2,000 odd words I lost in "My Documents" somehow, so it was a bit depressing last night to find my word count down by quite a bit; it's alright now, though, and I'm back on track. If all goes according to plan, I'll work further on it after the end of the month, add illustrations, add in the extras (can't tell you about them yet LOL) and get it ready for publishing. Oh yes, I need a title too...........:)
Whether anyone will actually want to read it I'm not sure, but, all things being equal, I'll have proved to myself that I can do it.

Edited to alter terrible typing..........LOL

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

More tea (cosies) Vicar?

My friend rang up Friday night to say all the tea cosies had been sold from the WI stall - any chance of some more? LOL I spent the weekend's knitting time on these, and I've now a green and white one half done. She was delighted with them, and hinted some more for next week would be good........LOL I've tried various tea cosies - cottages, flowery ones, stripey ones, but these are always what they want. I've done so many now, I don't need the pattern! I thought of a slight adaptation to make last night, though, so might give that a go to ring teh changes. All that tea-related knitting prompted more biscuits, so here's my recipe for peanut butter biscuits - quick and easy, very tasty.

Peanut butter biscuits

2 oz butter, softened
2 oz peanut butter
4 oz plain flour
1/2 beaten egg
spice of your choice, pinch of, eg mixed spice, ginger

Mix the two butters together well, then add sugar, then egg and spices, and lastly the flour. The mix should be softish, but not too soft. Roll inot balls the size of a walnut and space apart on a baking tray. Flatten the backs with a wet fork and bake for 10 minutes or so in a hot oven until lightly browned, but not ahrd - they will crisp up on cooling. Cool on a wire rack.
I make a hazelnut version of this too, with hazelnut butter, but it's not so easy to get hold of as the peanut one.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Soup from a hat............

Well, not really, but you knew that! This is my recipe for Turk's Turban soup, one of the culinary treats of early winter; a lovely, rich velvety textured soup, economical and filling.

1/2 large Turk's Turban squash
1 large onion, finely diced
2 oz butter
1 1/2 pints of stock - vegetable or chicken are best

Melt the butter in a pan, and add the onion; cook over a medium ehat until soft, but not coloured. Meanwhile, peel and dice the squash, cutting into 1"dice or so - add to pan when onion is cooked. Pour over stock, place a lid on the pan and leave to simmer until the squash is soft. Remove from heat, leave to cool, then whizz in a blender, or push through a sieve or mouli. Reheat, season if required, and serve with cream and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Serve with bread or rolls.

Optional extras - add in some garlic with the onion; fresh or dried herbs; curry powder/garam massala; use milk or yoghurt in place of the cream;top with grated cheese.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Cranbrie tarts

Another nice seasonal one! I made these for a function this weekend, quick and easy.

I bag frozen cranberries
shortcrust pastry
freshly ground black pepper
knob of butter
optional seasonings - orange, herbs, etc

Place cranberries in a pan; leave to simmer - you'll hear them pop as they burst! Stir regularly to prevent sticking; when softened, add in butter and pepper, and leave to stew slowly until berries very soft. At this point, you could add orange juice, or a small spoonful of marmalade, herbs, whatever you fancy. Add sugar to taste - they will be very sour without it, but I add in just enough to take the sour off, but leave the sharp. Meanwhile, line patty/tart tins with the pastry, and chill for 20 minutes or so in the fridge. When chilled, and the cranberry sauce thick, but spoonable, put spoonsful into each pastry case; dot the tops with small bits of Brie. I use Someerset Brie, but French is good too - we love both in this house, and use a lot of it. Bake in a hot oven for 10 - 15 minutes until pastry golden and chese bubbling. Remove from tin, and cool on wire rack. Serve at room temp, or warm through. You could alos make a big version of this, in a quiche pastry case.

More gorgeousness..........

When we were wee, we had quite a few of these dishes; we had trifle in them, Instant Whip (remember that?!!), tinned fruit salad, ice cream, etc. At the tip on Friday whilst I was looking about, a woman came in with several boxes of dishes and plates. To be honest, I was very restrained - I could have brought the lot home for a couple of pounds LOL. I chose 4 small ones, 4 larger ones (all different patterns) and the two pink ones. Nostalgic gorgeousness at its very best. Talking of which, I needed something to carry the dishes in so they arrived home safely. I found a rather nice sea grass basket, quite big, rectangular, dark brown with good elather handles, like a shopper-type basket. I loaded my spoils into it (included a plumb bob (I might just need one one day, it's just a lovely old functional piece of brass) and a rather nice glass topped tray which needs attention, but will appear on here at some point soon, I'm sure); the smell was pure nostalgia and took me right back to my school days. The late seventies were quite hippy oriented for a lot of us at school, and the "in" bag to carry your books in was an over-the-shoulder basket, with long handles, made of plaited sea grass; this basket smelled exactly like that, and transported me right back, there and then in the middle of the tip LOL. They say smell is one of the greatest triggers of nostalgia - maybe they're right. That and music for me.

This was my other treasure for this week:

Cost - one British pound. Be honest, you wouldn't have left it there for that, would you? LOL. We (Bean and I, we share) now have 5........

One Singer treadle on proper table and treadle; one very old hand machine, needs further investigation, kept in loft for now; one old German machine; one 1940s /50s Jones; this one. I should be able to find a date for it, it has a unique number on the front, so will look into that this week. It seems to work fine, and there are a good number of bobbins (round, like a modern machine) in the side box, along with lots of attachments, reels of cottons, etc. I haven't looked underneath at the spool holder yet, but hope to get to it this week. Looking forward to having a go with it soon. Soem say you can never have too many handbags; you can guess what I say..............LOL

Normal service is now resumed!

Apologies for the eratci postings over the last week or so. However, teh play is now over and done, so it's back to the more mundane and earthly delights of home life!
It all went well, and I enjoyed the experience, but wouldn't want to do it all the time. I need now to catch up on the house - there is a mountain of washing in the bath, the ironing's all over the place, stuff just needs sorting and tidying, dusting and the rest. I'm hoping it shouldn't take more than a couple of days to catch up, interspersed with getting the book done - I have another 25,000 words to write before next Sunday - I like a challenge........:O.
The weateher here is wintry today - very blustery, the wind cold and unforgiving. MrL desperate to light the woodburner, so might go for it later, I've some baking to do, and ofcourse, knitting, and there's a potentially rubbish film I want to see, set in the 1950s in rural America. I was trying to explain to MrL about how I watch a film; often, the story doesn't interest me at all, but I like looking at the sets. I find the historical/period detail fascinating, and will rewind a film just to get another look at a quilt, or a shot of a garden, or someone's dress. Surely I can't be the only one who does that? LOL
Now - shortbread or flapjacks? Both?