Wednesday 30 September 2009

This evening

Suicidal sheep atop Dryslwyn Castle. The next moment they had leapt over the wall - and were happily grazing the other side!

I had to drop my son off for a Pub Quiz tonight, so took the short cut across the Towy Valley, and on the way back I stopped at the top of the hill overlooking Dryslywn Castle and the beautiful valley of the Towy, and just stood and looked.

It has been a beautiful sunny evening, a canvas of clear blue skies with the golden orb of the sun melting down through the heavens towards the horizon. The shadows were long in the water meadows, and little white cottages and farmhouses were hugged in the corners of dark hedgerows. Beside the lane, the sun lit the saffron grass, snagged with burgundy leaves. The river flung itself round shepherd's crook meanders like loops of shot silk ribbon and a quarrel of Sparrows pounced about the hedge beside me.

The sun glinted on car windscreens as they travelled home along the A40 past Merlin's Hill and Whitemill, and the shadows lengthened in our own valley, the pine trees of Horeb forestry plantation black as a crow's back, and above them, tense as a crouching lion, the humped back of Llanllwni mynydd, tawny with bracken. Moments like these should be savoured, the memories taken out and polished in the depths of winter . . .

Tuesday 29 September 2009

Retro thoughts

I read something in the newspaper the other day that the more stressful our lives become in the current financial situation, the perceived threat of global warming etc, the more we return to the comforting nostalgia of the past. This particularly so regarding food, with "retro recipes" becoming popular - casseroles and stews, pies, rib-sticking puddings like granny used to make. Apparently Wagon Wheels and Angel Delight are having a new heyday; Arctic Rolls (I remember those with great fondness, as do my children actually!), Cadbury's Whispa bars, and even Findus Crispy Pancakes (pass). Jan Moir wrote about this in the Daily Mail a couple of weeks ago, and put this nostalgia down to us wishing to subliminally live in another age, where we felt "safe"- we are fooling ourselves (through food) that everything is fine. It's no wonder that people have been making Cup Cakes - which to me is an Americanism - I divide such things into Fairy Cakes (small) or Muffins (big)! What makes me laugh is the prettified cakes on sale for ridiculous prices - almost a pound apiece in some upmarket shops.

Apparently Waitrose has pricked up its ears and noticed a niche market which had formerly been overlooked - boiled sweets (that should please the dentists out there). They got their customers to vote for their favourites and the short list included pineapple chunks, kola cubes (I bought some only last month!), rhubarb and custard and sherbert lemons. Record sales of other "retro" foods have also been reported - Penguin bars (my children remember those from Grannie's choc bar tin), Bacon Frazzles and Cloudy Lemonade.

I suppose when Dame Vera Lynn can be "top of the pops" then we really are looking into the past and liking what we see . . .

What is an essential component of your childhood and what foods do you miss/want to have again?

I would like: Vesta Prawn Curry, lots and lots of packets of Potato Puffs, Corona Cherryade (really the best pop and Delivered to Your Door!), Sherbert Dabs, Toffee Crunch or a Toffee Twist stick, Jamboree Bags, Lemonade Powder, a slice of Battenburg cake and orange jelly with a tin of manderins set in it! I'll pass on the Fondue Parties of the 70s though . . .

Now, let's turn to the Home Service - I think we're just in time for Muffin the Mule . . .

Bumbling along

I had a "bit of a cold" last week - really, it was hardly anything at all - I had a couple of days where I felt washed out, a bit achey, had to lie down for an afternoon on the sofa, that sort of thing, but the early shifts for the car boot sales last weekend pulled me down and so far this week it has returned and rendered me completely woolly-headed and unfunctioning.

It was just as well then, that I could make up a) the loaf of bread on Monday, and b) my lamb curry for tea, without much thinking. Both things I have done so often that they are automatic. The curry recipe is from the Margeurite Patten book which taught me to cook. As far as curry recipes go it is far from authentic but gosh, it's tasty.

I chopped an onion and a couple of cloves of garlic and fried them in a little olive oil and took the pan from the heat and then, reaching into the cupboard, I added a good shaking of flour, 2 teaspoons (or tsps as they are known in this house) of Madras curry paste, a heaped tablespoon of Madras curry powder, and another tablespoon of home-made Rhubarb chutney which - having been in the fridge for months - has now reached a quite revoltingly wall-paper-paste consistency but has oomph. I had already made up a veggie stock cube with about 3/4 pint of water and gradually combined this with the pastes. I had a little windfall Bramley kicking around at the back of the counter, so this was peeled and chopped and added. MP calls for some sultanas at this point, but I omitted those as they were there from the chutney. I also omitted the squeeze of lemon juice, and the dessicated coconut. Then I added the chunks of hogget, and let it simmer for an hour or so. It was really tasty, and even better the 2nd night, but I really can't face it for a third, so I shall freeze the last portion.

When my eldest daughter makes curries, she is inclined to use lots of coconut milk or creamed coconut, and blends her own curry spices, but her palate is different to mine and whilst her curries are good, they are on the mild side, and when you have a cold, you can't beat a good hot curry to clear the head and nose.

Well, the head still isn't co-operating, so this will have to be a make-weight posting. I am off to buy paint this morning to cover the walls which were amazingly uncovered yesterday when we had a massive clear-out in the back junk room and the bottom kitchen. . . .

Many thanks to Creative Commons for the curry photo.

Monday 28 September 2009

Office apocalypse

My late m-in-law had one very like this, though I think hers was the first electric typewriter, from back in 1930s Manchester. . .

When going through the junk room yesterday, I found some carbon paper that mum had used when she used to run a club book (for herself and a neighbour). That took me back to the days when I first worked in an office, and we had to make umpteen carbon copies of letters or invoices. By the time you got to layer 8, the copy you kept and filed, it was very fuzzy and barely legible. Especially with my awful typing mistakes - I was not a natural typist in those days. Even 40 words a minute were a challenge (the last test I took, on the new-fangled electronic typewriter, I was 96 wpm and accurate). With today's wonderfully light computer keyboards, I am faster still.

I learned to type in my final year of school - by dropping two CSE subjects - mine were history and geography - a group of us were sent to Mount Pleasant Secretarial School, where we took typing (bad enough) and Office Practice (just how interesting can you make "How to complete a cheque" ?) I can remember being asked to write a piece of homework on what sort of office I should like to work in - one for a huge company or a small one. How the hell would I know?! We learned to type crashing along to the sound of the William Tell Overture, dah dah dah, dah dah dah, dah dah dah dah DAH, carriage return! I was given to looking at the keyboard to see where my fingers should be, and because of this I got given the typewriter with the blank keys. I cursed our teacher at the time but can now touch type at 100+ wpm so it stood me in good stead. We learned about templates, and columns, and stencils, and I hated every minute of it.

In my first job as an office junior/invoice clerk, the company obviously fancied themselves as modern and go-ahead and bought one of the earliest "computers" (I think it was called the Remington "miniputer" - an oxymoron if ever there was one) which would work out the invoice total. The thing was the size of a large desk, with the business side having a keyboard and the other clear side showing a bank of large relay boards, one or another of which was always going wrong, and poor Bill, the engineer, was with us every week.

Then there was the wonderful job of changing the ribbons on the typewriter . . . deep joy. Working in accounts, we had the red and black variety . . .

We also had a little adding machine which I loved using. You tapped in the figures you wanted to add up and then pulled a handle . . . The illustration below is of a "modern" handle-less adding machine!

No longer is there a telex machine which rattled like a hail of bullets when you sent the telex. Shades of Router and war reporters and all that, but in my case back then, just accountancy talk. Then there was the Gesterner stencil, how I hated that thing. Having to run off inky copies after having to set everything up so accurately. I bet they all breathed a sigh of relief in the office when THAT was retired (I was long gone by then).

At home I had a little portable typewriter which I used pre-computer. I used to type lots of penpal letters on mine, plus my creative writing pieces, instructor's notes for Pony Club Camp and Rallies. Happy memories. It now leans against the wall by the dustbin, in its pale blue case, waiting to be taken to be recycled . . .

Then there was the daisy wheel electric typewriter, complete with use-once carbon plastic ribbon which was on a sort of all-in-one cassette, which you just pushed into place, and didn't get your hands dirty!

Just as I was leaving, they were bringing in electronic typewriters with a short-term (half a page) memory, and you could correct your errors before printing work off. Yup - this illustration looks just like the one I used to use . . .

No longer is there any Tippex for covering up your (in my case MANY) typing mistakes. Oh gosh, memories of the wretched stuff clogging up and so you would have a big chewing-gum sized lump of it on the paper, or your carbons would stick together. The little chalky papers you put over the letter were a much better idea.

How things have changed, and how rapidly. Ten years ago, when I got my first computer, I never dreamed I would be communicating instantly with people around the world, making wonderful friends through my blog and through forums, let alone reading the newspapers on line, typing in a single word of phrase and searching for it - it is even quicker to check a word in an on-line dictionary that to walk across the room and look it up in my printed version, looking up maps, recipes, searching Creative Commons for illustrations (many thanks for todays job-lot), shopping on line, selling on line.

Gosh, are we ever going to feel bereft if the whole lot goes to the wall post-peak-oil . . . There probably will be no snail mail by then as Royal Mail will have long been out of business. . .

Instant Gratification vs. Looking Forward to Something.

I was thinking about this today, as I walked between the craft shop, where I had just purchased half a metre of stiffener fabric and some magnetic poppers for a bag I want to try and make, and the wool shop. We are counting every penny, and I have had to wait since last week for the wool (for winter hats for the family). I was really looking forward to getting the black and white wool I had seen last week, but sadly, all the inside stalls in our posh new market in Carmarthen were shut, including the Wool shop. So I changed my steps towards the sewing shop in Darkgate. There I browsed the wools and ended up choosing two balls of chunky wool in greys and navy/dark blues. The thrill of taking my pick according to what I needed (and could afford) was heightened by the fact that I had had to wait, (and the fact there wasn't an overwhelming choice!) and couldn't just go straight out and buy what I wanted, and then some more besides, as I used to be able to do. Of course, that old-fashioned habit of days gone by, saving up for something, is a rare beast these days. In these days of credit cards and instant gratification, couples moving into fully furnished, fully equipped homes after weddings which cost more than a 10% deposit on a small family home (and instead of the 10% deposit on a small family home!), saving seems to have become a thing of the past. It's not helped of course, by bank rates offering no improvement on hiding your money in an old sock under the mattress, or by people who have saved by their old age being literally penalized for doing so, as their money is taken for them to pay for care homes when they are in extremis. Yet the feckless, with nothing, get the same care for free.

As I said, I was pondering all this as I walked along. Things are so much more enjoyable when you have to wait for them. Good food (or when you are hungry, ANY food!); a glass of cold water when you've worked up a thirst; a cool shower after exercise on a hot day. Curry is all the better for being made one day and eaten the next, when the spices have blended. An outing all the more enjoyable when it has been postponed and finally enjoyed. Friends and family all the dearer when not seen for a while. The pleasure in finding that out-of-print book you have been hankering after for years is heightened by the years of searching in vain.

My husband once told me about having to save up for a large and rather expensive stamp album he really wanted. For weeks and weeks he saved up his sixpences until finally he had all the money for the stamp album. He arrived at the shop, looked at the album, and realized that he didn't want it any more . . .

Perhaps we should all think more about whether we actually need to buy something, or just WANT to buy it. Perhaps we should practice a little self control. Amazon have our number though, offering the one-click option, so that we will be sorely tempted to buy now and think it over later . . .

The scrummy wool photo at the top of the page was gleaned from Creative Commons . . .

Sunday 27 September 2009

Exhausted . . .

I have been working so hard all week, baking, jam- and chutney-making. Yesterday's car boot sale was an absolute disaster and we barely covered our costs. The only good thing to come out of it was "Miss Read's Christmas" in paperback for 50p - prompted by my friend Ann mentionting that she was re-reading the Miss Read books again, and I had a sudden hankering when I saw this one on offer. I have been pixie-led I think! I also spent the grand sum of £1.50 on three lengths of material. Two pretty pieces which I think I will turn into make-up bags for myself and my girls, and a 3 METRE length which is bold and colourful in design, and which my eldest daughter may well turn into something, especially now I have got her an elderly but working condition electric sewing machine (car boot bargain of course).

Anyway, we set off to a different county today and had a really good day, where we sold the lovely old Windsor chair with arms we no longer needed, and I found homes for much of my now-redundant horse stuff. My husband was delighted to find a book on Green Woodworking, which he snapped up and I found, believe it or not, "Miss Read's Country Cooking (or to cut a cabbage leaf)" and also a 1967 edition of the Horseman's Companion. We snapped up an old wicker cat basket too, as we will need several more to move the cats in when we downsize.

People were friendly, chatty, polite, didn't rubbish what we were selling, and weren't haggling at an insult level for goods. Nothing annoys me more than when people belittle your best piece, just because you know the value of it and they wanted it for next to nothing to sell on . . .

We celebrated by driving to Aberaeron for a little cone of honey ice cream each, and a few minutes' leisurely sit overlooking the harbour and the multi-coloured Georgian houses. Some young starlings, very light-coloured in their plumage yet, watched hungrily in the hope we would drop them some crumbs, and a small black-headed gull sat on a light beside us, ever-hopeful. The tide was out, and someone's boat had - literally - keeled over, held tight by the rope to the quayside. People were strolling, and the car park was chock-a-block but the people must have been elsewhere around the town as the benches were all vacant.

This is now an Art Gallery I think, but judging by the pulley at the top, was once for a warehouse perhaps.

We looked over the seawall for a little while, with the sea calm as a rockpool, a couple of small fishing boats with anglers onboard enjoying the slack tide. Folk walked their dogs, and strolled enjoying the afternoon as their Sunday roasts settled. We pondered, yet again, the translation of Heol Tudur from the Welsh into the English: Waterloo Street - surely something a little amiss there . . . yet when I check it with the on-line Welsh/English dictionary hosted by University of Wales, Lampeter (my old Uni), it gives that same translation and mentiones Aberaeron. Hmmm . . .

Thursday 24 September 2009

A little light upholstery

Many years ago, when my "bigs" were "smalls" and I was desperate for a break from routine, I joined a local Upholstery class. I learned to do simple stuff, like drop in seats, and overstuff dining chairs, and even managed a sit-up-and-beg chair, but these days, if I do any upholstery it's with my upholstery book in one hand and a hammer in the other. I can still do a passable job anyway, and have a couple of bigger challenges to get stuck into this winter. One is quite a challenge as it involves removing a hand-stitched Berlin wool work seat, washing it without it running or shrinking (eeeek!) and then carefully replacing it over a re-stuffed seat . . .

Recently, in the quest for some extra cash, I restored two piano stools we had in the back room. The biggest outlay was for the gimp to go around the edge of the seat. The material came from odd remnants I had bought from our local Fabric Warehouse (its demise is much lamented in this household). I didn't have any horsehair or coir for stuffing either, so had to fall back on a piece of quilt batting, folded appropriately, and then covered with fabric, which did the trick.

This was the piano stool as I bought it from a car boot sale for a couple of pounds. Someone had painted it cream, which saved me the job, so all I had to do was to remove the horrid rotted fabric and foam seat, and replace it . . .

. . . thus - a small piece of material (a few pence from the Fabric Warehouse) and £2.50 worth of black gimp . . . and a few brass-headed pins at 3p a time - I used less than £1 worth.

A bit more of challenge as this piano stool had obviously spent many years in someone's garage/woodshed, and had been used as a chopping block! My husband restored the base and legs, and then I merely recovered it with more batting, material and another £2.50 worth of gimp.

A couple of years ago I restored a little bentwood child's chair I had bought in a huddle of "junk" in a lot at auction. Again, it was simply a case of removing the old shabby seat covering and replacing it with new . . .

As you can see, the velvet seat had perished and needed replacing.

Here it is with the material and tacks removed, ready to have hessian strapping across the centre. I didn't take a photo of that bit, sadly.

Before I could do that, a split in the rim needed glueing and clamping. My husband did this bit. The piece of paper between the G-clamp and the wood is to stop the clamp bruising the wood.

Here is the finished article, with gold gimp and again, using just an oddment of material which was a remnant.

Does anyone else do this at home?

I've a set of 6 of these Victorian balloon backs to do this winter, but DH will have to make the drop in seat frames first.

Cobwebs . . .

A quiet misty corner of Carmarthenshire . . .

Autumn has really arrived here, and it was cool and misty first thing - humidity apparently 97% here yesterday with the fog, but down to 42% today, according to Google weather. I walked down the hill to forward two bits of mail on to my girls, and of course, took the camera with me to get some pics for my blog. I startled this heron from the other side of the bridge, but didn't notice him until he flapped upstream. The heron is the blob just above the river that looks about the size of a white budgie . . .

There were webs everywhere, taking advantage of every bit of stem, leaf and twig.

A totally different sort of web, virtually suspended from the leaves and twigs above, and some of them had little babyish ("yearlings" if they were horses!) spiderlings sitting hopefully underneath!

Another little spiderling palace amongst the hazel twigs . . .

The struts of our bridge were just one mass of cobwebs, and I couldn't resist a few cobwebby views up and downstream.

It was still quite misty then, but has lifted now but it's still a dull grey day.

As you'll see, another version of this autumnal scene is now my seasonal blog heading.

Wednesday 23 September 2009

A morning well spent, and waste not, want not.

A small part of last year's apple harvest. The trees are resting this year . . .

I am easily pleased - but I don't think that is necessarily the sign of a simple soul - more that I take pleasure in simple things.

Today was jam and chutney making (continued) and I set off with a will first thing and now have about 8 jars of Blackberry and Apple Jam cooling on the side. Whilst I was chopping apples and simmering them on their ownsome, and then with some blackberries for company, before shaking the sugar over the cooked fruit and gently incorporating it with my special wooden jam spoon, getting worn on the bottom edge and permanently stained purple from years and years of blackberry and elderberry juice, I listened to Radio 4.

As the chopping and cooking didn't take too much concentration, I was able to pay attention to Woman's Hour and listen to the most exquisite rendering of Vaughan Williams' Lark Ascending that I have ever heard. The violinist was Nicola Benedetti and she played a genuine megabuck Stradivarius. The pitch and music of the violin was superb and sent shivers up and down my spine. Of all the instruments, the violin can touch the soul like no other. I'm not a music buff by any means, but I know what I enjoy.

The Woman's Hour Drama this week is Jane Gardam's The Man in the Wooden Hat, and for once I have made sure I follow it each day (I normally forget). I am now drawn into this late-1940s drama. I find I have little patience for some of the "modern" drama of the Radio 4 afternoon, but this adaptation is excellent.

After The Stanley Baxter Playhouse had ended, I blew the dust of a very old taped recording my b-in-law had made for me of Vaughan Williams' Lark Ascending, so I could hear it all over again. The time fled as I chopped apples from our Bramley tree, for a panful of Apple and Walnut Chutney. I also have the apples chopped for the Bombay Chutney which will follow on. That is a much deeper flavoured chutney, hotter, and one which needs keeping and improving till Christmas at least, and I have used up jars several years old which had improved with keeping like a good wine.

Now as I write this, I am listening to his Tallis Fantasia. The swell of the music makes my heart sing, and makes me think of Edward Thomas, and Englishness, and everything that I hold dear to me.

Reading GTM's blog this morning, her post on Thriving on Less rings many bells here. Money is tight, as it is for many people, and we are living a real waste not, want not policy here. Slivers of soap are used down to the last scrap, and then stuck to the back of the new bar. Washing up liquid has its last few bubbles chased out with an intake of water. A couple of spoonfuls of mince, barely a portion for one even with lots of vegetables and spuds, easily becomes the topping for a mince pizza for two grown appetites, topped with grated cheese. Of course, if you aren't fussy individuals like my menfolk, you can turn it into a little pan of soup with chopped onions, those over-ripe tomatoes from the back of the fridge, the very top of the leek which you might otherwise have thrown, a stock cube, and a handful of rice or pasta added towards the end of the cooking. Or you could mix it with cubed cooked potato with peas or baked beans and it would make the filling for a couple of pasties.

The birds rarely get the stale bread here - it is easily made into breadcrumbs to coat slivers of turkey breast for goujons, or incorporated into home-made sausages when I am in the mood, or used as part of a crumble topping, or in bread and butter pudding or bread pudding.

I've given up buying expensive wafer-thin sliced bacon, and can recommend Lidl's cooking bacon pack (mis-shapes) is really good value at about £2.26 a pack (1 kilo of meat) and includes chunks of Gammon steak, and my menfolk have decreed that they prefer this to the sliced bacon in packs now, which is good news for my purse.

This week I needed ground cloves and we happened to be in T*sco when I priced it. All they had was a Schwartzkopf jar - 35g for £2.21. I hastily put it back and later dropped my husband off at the Health Food Shop where he got me 4 x 25g packs at 55p each, so for the same price I had nearly 4 times as much. I always used to buy my herbs and spices at the HFS, but now they have shut a road in Carmarthen, it means a goodly walk from the car parks, so for convenience, I had been buying own brand herbs and spices from the supermarkets. Not any more. I also mix my own season-all and Spicy season-all, using the same ingredients (printed in the tiniest print on the label, doubtless to discourage making this at home). Once again, my son prefers my home-made version, though he did suggest I put the sprinkle of home dried celery leaves in the pestle and mortar first as they come out as sprigs otherwise!

I am watching the electricity meter like a hawk too, and we have cut right back on using the immersion heater. Unfortunately, DH has lost the instructions on how to alter the timer, and I can't find them on line so we just manually turn it off in the morning when it has been on for half an hour. I am not prepared to forgo our hot bath in the evening (and the shower produces only scolding water or freezing) but mine is the ankle-deep war-time bath . . . DH is taking more persuading that it doesn't need to be twice as deep!

A punnet of mixed frozen fruit of which I bought several on special offer this summer. Last year I used this mixture to flavour mixed-fruit brandy. This year I am using the frozen fruit to sprinkle over an apple pie before the lid goes on. It sharpens the mixture (my menfolk don't like anything too sweet) and gives a wonderful flavour. One punnet is eked out between 3 pies.

Right, the Archers have finished and my chutney calls . . .

Monday 21 September 2009

More frugalness

Home-made wine - it's that time of year to get cracking with what nature has to offer.

Mind you, my frugalness is probably less than other people's frugalness, as I read someone's blog recently where they were literally just buying the food for planned meals for the week - as in one onion, one courgette, one orange etc. I couldn't live like that - I HAVE to have my well-stocked larder and freezers. To be honest, it is cheaper buying things in bulk - within reason - even if you are a singleton. If the SHTF then you don't want to be left looking at Mother Hubbard's Cupboard do you?

Take potatoes for example. My b-in-law, who lives on his own but is a wonderful cook and always has friends and family round for meals, always buys potatoes by the individual small bag from the supermarket. The sort where you have to pay a couple of pounds in money for perhaps 5 lbs of spuds. We ALWAYS buy our spuds by the sack, nearly always Maris Piper as they make good chips and roasties and aren't too bad for other ways of cooking either. Our latest sack was £5.75. That works out at about 10 pence per pound. That individual bag works out about 35p or 40p per pound, more if you are just buying 4 big bakers on a stupid polystyrene tray. My spuds from the garden weren't prolific this year - my fault from not digging and manuring well enough, and for not trenching . . . I was worn to a frazzle by the time I planted them, a little belatedly . . . but we still have a sackful of various varieties, most of which make excellent mash and good oven chips too.

My b-in-law would never DREAM of picking blackberries - yet he lives barely 100 yards from a trackway which offers splendid wild fruit for the picking. He would rather pay whatever you pay for a tray of supermarket blackberries (Oregon Thornless at silly price per pound) to make an exquisite blackberry and apple pie . . . I have one whole tray of my big freezer bulging with blackberries I have picked in recent weeks - free food and happy memories.

Rarely do we buy fruit and veg from the supermarkets (exception is bananas, which are always cheaper at Lidl and occasionally stuff from them when it is reduced to half price, especially Mangoes, which I use for Mango Chutney - or eat fresh). We go to the big fruit and veg warehouse at Abergwili. The chap there used to have a market stall but now sells direct from his warehouse. His stuff is competatively priced, much of it from Britain, and I love to get a box of use-very-quickly fruit or tomatoes or whatever for £1, for jam or chutney making or for cooking and freezing. You can get a whole sack of onions or swedes or carrots for £3 or so a sack, and in winter if you look for swede or parsnips in Tescos, you would think they were a rare breed or something, jetted from t'other side of the world and priced accordingly! This week I am jam and chutney making, so I am making a beeline for Abergwili this morning . . .

I needed to make more room in the freezer yesterday, so I have decanted elderberries, blackberries and sloes. The elderberries have made it to the first stage of Pontac sauce (finally!), some more of them along with blackberries, sloes and windfall apples from the garden, made the first batch of Hedgepick Jam, which is DIVINE, with such a depth of flavour . . . if it were wine, it would be a hundred pounds a bottle, it tastes so good! I'm making some more today.


"This recipe was given to me by a lady living at Hinton Charterhouse, a village just outside Bath. She told me it was given to her by someone instructing members of the Women's Institute on jam-making during the war. The quantities of the different fruits can be varied, but Mrs Sneyd suggests that it would be unwise to use a large proportion of sloes.!" (Taken from: the National Trust Book of the Country Kitchen Storecupboard by Sarah Paston-Williams. My copy is much-used and covered in splashes of jam and jerusalem!)

2 lb (900g) crab apples, or any apples
2 lb (900g) blackberries
1lb (450g) elderberries
1lb (450g) sloes
1lb (450g) sugar to each 1pt (500ml) fruit pulp

Peel, core and chop apples. Cook in a little water until soft. Beat to a pulp. Wash other fruit, removing any stalks from elderberries and sloes, and cook in a little water until soft. Remove from the heat and push through a sieve. Mix with apple pulp and measure the quantity of pulp together. Place in a large pan and stir in 1 lb (450g) sugar for each 1pt (500ml) fruit pulp. Heat very gently until sugar has completely dissolved. Then increase heat and boil rapidly until setting point is reached. Pour into warm jars and cover.

Making Crab Apple Jelly . . .

The finished product - the colour (and flavour) is just wonderful.

Last week on Economy Gastronomy, they had a couple who would cook a chicken, cut a bit off the breast, a bit off the leg (why not eat the whole leg?!) and then THROW THE REST AWAY! I couldn't believe my eyes. Fortunately, they were re-educated - swiftly! Obvious uses for leftover chicken are cold meat, a curry, a pie, pasties, risotto, and of course boiling the carcase up for stock for soup.

I make a cheat's pie using meat cut off the carcase, a tin of Campbell' s Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup (NOT the low fat variety - that has no taste whatsoever) or Chicken in White Wine Soup and some 'boughten' puff pastry, though you can of course make your own shortcrust pastry. Literally, make the soup up with a canful of hotwater and getting rid of the lumps, add the meat (and chopped bacon, mushrooms, peas etc - whatever you wish to add), pour into a pie dish and plonk the rolled-out pastry on top. Brush with milk and straight in a hot oven till golden brown and bubbling. Another alternative to this is to slice potatoes thinly and par-boil, use as a topping in place of the pastry by making a potato "thatch", sprinkle a little cream if wished, plus a shiver of ground nutmeg and black pepper and top with grated cheese. Cook until golden brown and bubbling again.

Home-made pasties - the fillings are infinite. My menfolk like plain mince or mince and a little potato, but you can use cheese and onion, cheese and ham/and potato, bolognese, chilli mince with spicy beans, curried mince or meat or vegetables, spicy mince 'n' rice, ratatouille, or whatever.

More recipes and ramblings tomorrow . . .