Posted in Life, the universe and everything..., tagged All Creatures Great and Small, baking, Delia Smith, nigel slater, rural Ireland, sunday lunch, Sunday Tea, The Little House on the Prairie, The Waltons on February 3, 2013 |
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Well Dear Reader, flushed with the success of last weeks baking escapades, the Eldest Baby Girl and I set to a spot of fairy cake making this week. This was preceded by a trip to the supermarket to purchase flower and butterfly sprinkles, MORE pink icing and some rather fetching sugar creatures with which to adorn our masterpieces.
I was thinking about when I was little and as I’ve said before, making cakes for Sunday tea. Back in those days (not quite the Dark Ages but not far off) you had ‘proper’ Sunday lunch at lunchtime followed by Sunday tea at around sixish. We absolutely loved Sunday tea in our house. Taken in front of the fire and the telly it consisted of bread and butter, salad (for some unknown reason), scones and whatever cakes I had made the previous day. There were jars of beetroot and pickle to accompany and a big teapot full of tea which was drunk (on this day only) from cups and saucers. My Mother had a full set of the botanic garden range of Portmerion china and this was what we ate from as we watched All Creatures Great and Small and endless episodes of The Waltons and Little House on the Prairie. We lived in the middle of nowhere in Ireland for much of my childhood and I remember Sunday teas with great fondness and nostalgia. I loved the sense of occasion and the sense of family that is all too often missing in these busy times of ours.
And so bake we did. The Small Boy came for observation, hugs, kisses and later tasting duties but found that rugby on the telly with Pops was far more his thing. We had such a lovely time. The EBG could talk for England and there was a steward’s enquiry about the correct way to stir cakes….but eventually taaaadah
I just love how she loves to do all of this. She is a massive bossy knickers (bit like her Mother was at that age….just saying) but I love her to bits and she is always so very proud of her achievements
Couldn’t pin the other one down for a decent photo at all. Too busy rushing about
Whatever the weather Dear Reader, enjoy your week. I’ve spent today
slaving in enjoying my garden. Nigel Slater has been enjoying his too and we’ve been exchanging Tweets on the matter. Get me eh – exchanging Tweets with my very favourite cook…I shall be unbearable…
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Posted in Life, the universe and everything..., tagged beginning of term, christmas, Coq au Riesling, grandchildren, grandparents, Isle of Wight, nativity, new year, nigel slater, Rainbow, The Folly, Whippingham on January 6, 2013 |
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Heavens to Betsy Dear Reader it’s been ages. I know that I bang on about the time flying by – but fly by it does. There don’t seem to be enough minutes or hours to string together to make any inroads into anything.
Since my last small amount of effort here we’ve had New Year’s Eve (a splendid night as always at the Folly amongst friends and family). A wonderful post Christmas Christmas dinner cooked by our lovely Norwegian friends which was made doubly better by the fact that I had no hand in it whatsoever (bear in mind that there has been NO Christmas dinner that I have not had a least a hand in for the last 25 years…) – they had gone to an enormous amount of effort and jolly good it was too with an eclectic guest list of Norwegians x 2, Paddys x 2, Spaniards x 1 and 2 Brits. We also had New Year’s Day with Mr and Mrs Folly including a spot of footie, a rather lovely Coq au Riesling and a good old amount of chat. And so I prepared for work on the 2nd until disaster struck.
I should tell you that whilst removing Amanda the turkey (if you don’t know the turkey rule – we always name it after someone who we don’t like / has done us down over the previous year and take great pleasure in roasting him / her) I managed to completely knacker my back. It could have had something to do with the fact that she weighed 18lbs and was flippin’ heavy or it could have just been the angle of liftage – whatever it was it bloody hurt (and still does). So having had the back from hell since Christmas day, I awoke on the 2nd with the most filthy of colds and absolutely no voice (much to the delight of the rest of the household). It felt as though I’d been run over at the very least and I had my first sick day EVER at this job!
I still sound like a particularly dodgy 0898 number (am rethinking career as we speak) but have been to work (cue much hilarity and ‘did someone say something’ jolly japes…)
So here we are at the beginning of the first week proper back at work. The Child has been redeposited at university so the nest is empty once more, the decorations are gone and the holiday season is behind us again until next time. Despite my ‘no New Year resolution’ mantra, the one thing I have wanted to do is lose some (considerable) weight so with that in mind I have had no alcohol since New Year’s Day (collective gasp from the crowd) and have been counting the calories. Actually, what with the back and the cold it’s not been too difficult but time will tell….
I leave you therefore with two small memories of Christmas – and random ones at that. The first is the Eldest Baby Girl playing Mary at the school nativity. She was very good (apart from bursting into tears at the end because ‘THAT angel touched my cradle Nanny and I TOLD her not to’). I did explain that angels can be a bit unreasonable that way sometimes! I also took her to the panto which she absolutely loved – getting her into the acting groove at an early age – well someone has to carry on the dynasty!!
The second is of Madam Rainbow. We’ve had her now for quite a while and she really is part of the family. She is the grumpiest most miserable baggage at times but when it comes to the arms of a man she is a real softy (bit like myself really). Silly old thing that she is.
And there I shall leave you. Work proper beckons tomorrow and there are more Excel spreadsheets to be created than you can shake a stick at. I shall keep you posted on my detox efforts (although I’m sure you’re not REMOTELY interested) and go firmly into 2013 feeling not physically brilliant but definitely mentally better than last year. Bring it on!
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Posted in Life, the universe and everything..., tagged casseroles, grandchildren. grandparents, Halloween, Kitchen Diaries, lifestyle, nigel slater, November, Winter on November 7, 2012 |
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Do you know Dear Reader, I sometimes wonder myself where the time goes. It seems like only yesterday that we were returned from France but it was in fact three weeks ago. How the time flies when you’re back to Excel spreadsheets….
We have been undertaking a major programme of works at the homestead. The Child’s room has been fully fumigated now that he has gone off to university, there are new floorings to be laid, a new bathroom of sorts to be installed and TG is busily painting and decorating (collective shocked intake of breath). We had expended so much time and energy on the holiday let (not to mention hard cash) that our own abode has been a bit neglected of late and so needed some attention. The programme is expected (or heads will roll) to be completed at the beginning of December so that we can have a cosy crimbo that only slightly smells of wet paint….
In other news we have become empty nesters supreme with trips to the pub, excursions to shops to choose impractical pale coloured carpets and cooking what we please. We have had our lovely Norwegian friends round for an Italian foodfest (they had been to France too and we were all a little French’d out but brought TG back some of the smelliest cheese in the known universe much to the consternation of their fellow Eurostar passengers!) and have indulged in a spot of Sunday evening carvery as our friend the Folliers have been on their hols and so Sunday has become the new Wednesday…I could get used to this you know. This weekend we are in charge of the Baby. All 8 weeks old of her. I am thrilled and terrified in equal measure and will doubtless spend the entire night awake and prodding her to make sure she’s ok…I forsee a very early night on Sunday.
Of course the small people have been in evidence
Observe the intense concentration…..
Ah. Caught in the act. Up the stairs where I’m not supposed to be…
How can you NOT forgive this face?
So really Dear Reader, it has been one long whirlwind of in, out and shake the house about. To be honest, we don’t move much in the evenings during the week. It’s too flippin’ cold for a start and the Winter telly schedules are beginning to kick in. What with that and the new Kitchen Diaries to experiment from, who needs to go anywhere?
Not Madam Rainbow that’s for sure – all nice and toasty in her Winter sofa nest…she is the most incredibly lazy baggage! (I say Winter sofa. The Other Child thought I was kidding when I said I was changing all the cushions and throws for Winter ones. I wasn’t and now she thinks I’m bonkers).
So that’s about it. The Winter is upon us Dear Reader. There are long walks to be taken, casseroles to be cooked and lashing of gravy to be had at every opportunity. I had thought ‘diet’ but just bought some longer and therefore more forgiving jumpers instead…job done!
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Posted in Life, the universe and everything..., tagged boiled eggs and soldiers, comfort food, fish fingers, frozen peas, Heinz spaghetti, nigel slater, nursery food, Ribena, The Kitchen Diaries, toast on April 27, 2012 |
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When times are tough, when the weather is rubbish, when you’re feeling a bit under par or when left home alone the answer is always nursery food. Whether it’s a Farley’s rusk mushed up in milk, a hot ribena, soft boiled egg and soldiers, Heinz spaghetti on toast or jelly and cream, there is nothing more comforting than those nursery memories.
And so it was Dear Reader, that I found myself home (sort of) alone this week. TG was off in France and although The Child pops in sporadically I was let off the ‘having to cook proper dinner’ hook. And so last night with the wind blowing a hooley outside and the rain lashing down all day, I decided that the only way forward was the humble fish finger. Nigel Slater in his Kitchen Diaries admits to, on occasion, foregoing proper cooking in favour of a packet of fish fingers, some white bread and a six pack of lager and I can absolutely identify with this regression to basics. As with all good recipes I tweaked just a little and so enjoyed my fishy loveliness with smiley faces (left over from the small people), peas and ketchup. Oh – and a glass of wine of course. The fish fingers were slightly charred around the edges (more by my going off to do something else and forgetting about them rather than by judgement) but delightfully mushy in the middle and the smiley faces suitably perfect for ketchup dunking.
When in doubt, less is always more and I can highly recommend keeping a packet of emergency fish fingers in your freezer for those times when fancy smancy just won’t do.
Whatever the weather Dear Reader, enjoy your weekend.
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Posted in Life, the universe and everything..., tagged aubergine, beginning of term, blogging, chutney, end of Summer, holidays, jam, nigel slater, September on September 1, 2010 |
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I always think, Dear Reader, that the first of September is like the beginning of term – or how the beginning of term used to be when I was at school back in the dark ages (according to my children). At this time of year, every year, I feel a definite mental shift from the hedonistic Summer into getting organised and sorted out for the Autumn and Winter ahead. And whilst I love the outdoorness (yes that is a real word) of the long Summer days and the feeling of warmth on my skin, I also love the putting on of the extra blanket, stacking logs and kindling and getting warmer jumpers out. Soon it’ll be time to put the garden to bed for the Winter and concentrate on indoor pursuits long abandoned in the face of sunshine and barbeques. TG cooked the first of the new season of roast dinners last night and it was grand – he did cook as though there were seventeen of us as opposed to just the three and we ate ourselves to a gravy soaked standstill but it was just what was needed on a chilly evening.
And what of the Summer? Well I don’t know about you, but mine was pretty damn good. There were nights out with friends over Cowes Week and beyond, boat trips up the river, dinner in the garden, days spent with the Smallest Baby Girl and a particularly hideous purple paddling pool, an addition to the family in the form of Madam Rainbow, new friendships made and met and old friendships reconfirmed. I had a wonderful holiday – probably the best ever, and got to spend more time with TG and the children that I expected to which was brilliant. We also celebrated not one but two anniversaries which a year ago were certainly not on the cards and I am thankful for the turn around in my fortunes on that front. All in all it was a good Summer despite working like a slave at times, the plague of moths that ate the sitting room curtains and the rug and the fact that despite ballet and starvation I STILL have middle aged spread!
So what does the first week of the new term hold? There will be much making of jam and chutney, the beginnings of Christmas (sorry to mention the C word) making and doing, a first read through for a play that I’m in in November, curry club night tonight with the usual suspects and beginning to get the house sorted for colder months ahead. Oh yes and finishing up what is left in the veg garden. You may remember (or may not if you nodded off some time ago) that I grew quite a lot in pots this year a la Nigel Slater and this week these appeared (no rude comments please)
They are mini aubergines and beautiful in their small but perfectly formed purple lusciousness. I don’t want to pick them because they are just so cute but I know that’s being entirely ridiculous so I foresee some roasted vegetables at the weekend…or maybe a Moussaka…or mabe I could stuff them….the possibilities are endless.
So then. The beginning of term. Pencils newly sharpened, shoes shined, uniform pressed and mind set in place. New things to learn, new friends to make and new experiences to be had. Enjoy Dear Reader, enjoy.
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Posted in Life, the universe and everything..., tagged aubergines, carrots, gardening, nigel slater, peas, potatoes, roses, roses around my door, spring onions, tomatoes, vegetable patch on June 22, 2010 |
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Many, many years ago my daughter’s father bought me a tiny picture called ‘Roses around my door’. It’s a little watercolour print measuring about two inches square in a wide white embossed mount and it’s hung on my bedroom wall for what must now be about 22 years. He bought it for me because he knew that in my romantic soul I wasn’t really happy living in our flat in London and would far rather be in a little cottage somewhere with the aforesaid door and roses. Well, Dear Reader, it did come to pass (not with him) and I now reside in that very cottage with those very roses.
TG and I slaved in the front garden over the weekend as the manor house to which our house is one of the lodges (yes I know that was a complicated sentence) is open at the weekend and we feel duty bound to make everything look neat and pretty and so we pruned and weeded and cut hedges and ended up spending the whole of saturday out there. As I was standing back admiring our handywork the picture came to mind so here it is in the flesh (well petal)
We are so lucky to live where we do and when the flowers are out, the garden is a joy especially around the door
Elsewhere in the veggie patch things are coming on apace as everything seems to be suddenly putting on a growing spurt. Some of the veg is in mine and the ACL’s raised beds that we built and some on the veg is being grown a la Nigel Slater in pots. I have mini aubergines, tomatoes and courgettes in pots as well as potatoes in old chicken feed sacks. The main crop of beans (French and runner) are doing well as our the main crop tomatoes, salads and spring onions. The carrots were a bit hit and miss so I’ve planted some more and the peas will be ready in a minute.
And not forgetting the 8 different varieties of chilli seed that my brother bought me for Christmas…
When you think that we were 3 feet under in snow 6 months ago, nature is pretty amazing isn’t it? And when I think that all of the veg has been grown from seed, that I have weeded (endlessly) and watered (almost as endlessly) I think that’s pretty amazing of me too!! Growing vegetables takes a lot of patience, some luck, a great deal of back breaking digging and weeding and there are those detractors out there who say ‘pah’ (they do I’ve heard them) and go on about shop bought being just as good. ‘Bah humbug’ (a little unseasonably) I say to them. What with the roses and the vegetables, my garden cup just about runneth over!
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Posted in Life, the universe and everything..., tagged Chicken, Chilli, cooking, cottage pie, Economy Gastronomy, leftovers, making and freezing, nigel slater, Ragu, Tender on January 11, 2010 |
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My name is Amber and I am a cookbook junkie. There, I’ve said it. Not out loud as such, but well, as good as. I have any number of cookbooks by any number of authors and chefs covering any number of countries and cuisines. They feature heavily on my Christmas and birthday wish lists and nobody and I mean NOBODY is allowed to read them before I have. And yes, before you ask, I do use them. Well, most of them.
For my delight this year there were two really fantastic books – one a wish list whim that I had read about and the other by a firm favourite to add to my collection of his tomes (one still to go).
Firstly, my daughter bought me Economy Gastronomy…
Now, this is a clever book which is based on the premise that we are all throwing away far too much food and not doing enough planning ahead when it comes to our shopping. Basically you take one ingredient – say for instance a chicken, have a nice roast, and then use the leftovers for something else the next day, or make and freeze something. This is all so that at the end of the week there won’t be something lurking and festering at the back of the fridge. It also is a big believer in buying in bulk, making and freezing and also making the most of special offers. So on the basis of this and having read the book from cover to cover, we have so far made a kilo of mince into a cottage pie, a ragu and a chilli. Last nights roast chicken (organic, free range and bought in the reduced section of the supermarket for £3.50!) which was very nice, will tonight become Arrizo con Pollo with the addition of a few bits and pieces. TG has also made some very nice bread – the kneading wore him out but he could do with losing a few pounds post holidays – perfect! None of it is rocket science and I’m sure that most you do it already,but it’s more a different way of thinking. I have been making fridge scraping soups for years and making things from leftovers, but this takes it to a whole new level.
My other book is from my favourite ever chef – the very lovely Nigel Slater – probably the best writer of food prose in the world.
This is the man who can elevate the most humble of ingredients to the most sublime of levels, who makes me want to cook everything that he describes and who generally speaking only ever uses one pot. I love his magazine and newspaper articles and I read his books from cover to cover – not just for the recipes but for his beautiful descriptions of buying, growing and cooking food. I love the simplicity of his cooking using readily available ingredients (none of your ‘ just pop down to your local South African grocer’ here) and I love his very obvious passion for food and in this latest book, his passion for growing it. His quiet enthusiasm and lack of arrogance is very refreshing. You can keep your ranting chefs, your jus, your reductions, your fancy smancy ingredients, your nouvelle cuisine and your fannying around – give me Nigel and his Coq au Riesling any day!!
P.S. If you haven’t tried him, then Real Food is a good starting place…..
P.P.S. His Thai Green Chicken Curry is also beyond good!
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Posted in Life, the universe and everything..., tagged apples, attitude, blame, chutney, cooking, failure, nigel slater, taking responsibility, tomatoes on October 19, 2009 |
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I had a week of two parts last week. The working week was rubbish but the social, home, relationship one was great. The working week was rubbish because of the blame culture that seems to exist so much in this country nowadays. It seems to me that nobody is willing to take responsibility for their words or actions and instead are at great pains to shift the blame elsewhere. Without going into boring detail I had this in spades last week and by the end of the week was thoroughly fed up with other people’s attitude towards me. I can’t work out if people do this blame shifting this as a face-saving exercise, because they are scared of actually taking responsibility or whether it is simply something that is becoming entrenched in our society. We see it all the time in the papers and on tv – ‘celebrities’, footballers, pop stars et al who have an ‘it wasn’t my fault’ attitude towards whatever scandal they have found themselves embroiled in – it has become endemic and filters down into the lives and workplaces of all of us, even on the sunny Isle. For myself, I try to take the ‘mistake has happened, now how can we make it right’ attitude without apportioning blame, but it isn’t easy in the face of such opposition. Anyway enough of me on my soap box! Suffice to say that after the week that was TG and I went and had a couple of glasses with some friends and after a small rant and a good laugh I was feeling very much better.
I had a whole day off on Saturday for a change and after a small dose of retail therapy with all the vouchers and gift cards I could muster (there is nothing like free money!), I set about making some Christmas chutney and some more of my Indian Summer recipe with all of the tomatoes that were left, which was an enormous number and the apples I fished for. The child whinged that the house smelled of vinegar but I cracked out a goodly number of jars and felt that I’d achieved something. The rest of the tomatoes became soup that even TG liked which surprised me because he can be a fusspot when it comes to some of my more experimental recipes. I used to cook dinners made up from whatever was left in the fridge and they were called ‘looks awful, tastes great’ dinners and the kids dreaded them. For dinner on Saturday I made an old favourite Coq au Riesling – a Nigel Slater special and we were sad muppets and ate it in front of Strictly and the X Factor…sad but true. Actually we had a really nice evening with the fire lit and a few glasses of various – simple pleasures.
Well who knows what the week will bring – not more of the same on the work front I hope, but we’ll have to see. If it turns out that way I shall count to ten and smile sweetly and think about all the nice things to come this week – the Curry Club on Wednesday, a read through for a little play I’m directing and time spent with friends. The easiest thing in the world is to find fault and as a saying I once read says ’a man can fail many times, but he isn’t a failure until he begins to blame someone else’. So very true.
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