Saturday, 5 November 2011

Curtains and cooking - A productive week

I have had a busy week this week as I decided I would make the new winter curtains for the sitting room. They cost me very little other than time, as the material has been in my stash for several years now and was a remnant from the Fabric Warehouse (much lamentation in this household when it shut down) and probably cost about £8 or £10. The lining was a pair of the now infamous orange Lidl 50p curtains . . .

The colour is actually more coral/terracotta than orange, but GOSH what a difference it makes to the room of an evening. It's like being given a hug! I made the first curtain in the early hours of last Sunday morning, after being woken by a hairy cat at 3 a.m. (old time) and not being able to get back to sleep. I didn't quite have the width I needed, so I had to join two remnants cut off the end into a long strip which was added to the outside edge of each curtain, but to be honest, unless you look closely, you can't see the join, as it is hidden by the folds of the material.

Whilst I was at it, I put a woollen lining on some blue curtains for the kitchen which I had picked up cheaply at the car boot sale. The lining was a whole roll given me by a neighbour, left over since they had wound up their office seating manufacturing business. Then I took the summer sitting room curtains and turned a faded edge and blind-hemmed it, so they are ready to go next year again. I've also started making some fresh cushion covers, one utilising a pretty embroidered tray cloth (!) and the other using left-over orange curtain material . . .

The scene of all the baking action. I preserved the beautifully-polished kitchen table top with one of my husband's grandmother's tablecloths. They don't make them like this any more - linen, and made to LAST.

River Cottage Gingerbread. This is a "double" Gingerbread as it has chopped preserved Ginger in it too. This is now down to the last piece . . . I baked it specially for my husband, as he had a dodgy tum, and he LOVES ginger, which is meant to be good for feeling sick.


100g golden syrup
100g black treacle
75g unsalted butter
75g light soft brown or muscovado sugar (I omitted this as OH doesn't have a sweet tooth - it didn't need it, tbh)
150g plain flour
1tsp round ginger (Barts has VERY good flavour)
1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 egg, lightly beaten
75ml milk
Finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
75-100g finely chopped preserved stem ginger in syrup (drained) - though I did add about a tablespoon of the syrup too

Icing (Optional)

50g icing sugar, sifted
1 tblspn lemon juice or water
50g whole stem ginger (2 pieces)


1-litre (2 lb) loaf tin, greased and lined with baking parchment

Preheat the oven to 170C/gas 3. Put the golden syrup, treacle, butter (and sugar) into a small saucepan. Place over a gentle heat and stir until the butter has melted and the ingredients are evenly blended. Set aside to cool.

Sift the flour, ground ginger, mixed spice and cinnamon into a medium mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the cooled treacle mixture, egg, milk and lemon zest. Using a wooden spoon, beat well until the mixture is smooth and glossy.

Dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in 1 tblspn. hot water. Add to the mixture with the chopped ginger and mix thoroughly to create a pourable batter.

Pour into the prepared tin and bake in the oven for 50-60 minutes, or until the cake is firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave in the tin for 10 mins before turning the cake out onto a wire rack to cool.

When cold, if you wish, mix the icing sugar with the lemon juice or water and drizzle over the cake, then top with slivers of stem ginger.

This cake is best stored for 3-4 days before eating. It keeps well for 2 weeks and freezes beautifully. (Keeps for 2 weeks? They've got to be joking - ours lasted 24 hours!!!)

A Cottage Loaf, made with half Spelt flour, and half strong white bread flour.

River Cottage Jammy Dodgers, filled with home-made Blackcurrant Jam. Scrummy! The Dodger bit is like shortbread . . .


(Makes 6 or 7 - well, I got a dozen out of this by rolling a tiny bit thinner).

175g plain flour
pinch off sea salt
75g unrefined icing sugar (I had to use caster, as I had no icing sugar, unrefined or otherwise)
125g unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
150g raspberry jam (or whatever flavour you like. Personally, I used home-made Blackcurrant Jam - WOW!)


2 large baking sheets, lined with baking parchment (oops - I just greased mine well)
6-7mm biscuit cutter, crinkle-edged or plain (perhaps I used a slightly smaller cutter)
2.5 heart, square or round biscuit cutter (I didn't have a small enough one, so I used the centre of my pie funnel)

Sift the flour, salt and icing sugar into a large mixing bowl. Add the butter and lightly rub into the flour mix, using your fingertips, until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolk and vanilla extract together. Make a well in the centre of the flour mix. Add the egg and vanilla mix and work together to form a soft, smooth dough. Seal the dough in a polythene bag and chill in the fridge for 25-30 mins. (Another Ooops, as I forgot to do this - and it was OK).

Preheat the oven to 170deg. C/gas 3. Divide the dough into two equal portions. Place one portion between two pieces of lightly floured greaseproof paper and, using a rolling pin, roll the dough to approximately 1 4mm thickness. Repeat with the second piece of dough. Remove the top paper. (D'you sense I'm a rebel? I didn't bother with the greasproof, but just sprinkled a little bit more flour about . . .)

With the larger biscuit cutter, cut the dough into discs (make sure you have an even number). Using the smaller cutter, cut out and remove the centre of half the biscuit discs, the cut-out pieces can be kneaded back into the remaining dough. Place all the discs on the baking sheets. Bake for 15-20 mins until just firm and barely coloured (this is MUCH less - half the time? - in my fan oven, which cooks very hot.)

Remove from the oven and place a teaspoonful of jam in the centre of each whole biscuit round. Spread to 15cm from the edge (in other words, not too close if you can't be bothered to measure, which I couldn't be). Place the cut-out rounds on top. Return to the oven and cook for a further 5-6 mins by which time the biscuits will be evenly cooked and the jam hot enough to stick them together. Leave the biscuits to cool for 5 mins before transferring to a wire rack. Or if, like me, you browned them a teensy bit in the first place, jus sandwich with jam and leave to cool. They are like shortbread, and DIVINE!

Apple Crumble - I am still using up my apples from the garden. Just 6 BIG boxes to go . . .


  1. You'll be glad that you made those curtains when it turns cold. The gingerbread sounds gorgeous, I've copied the recipe! Ginger is good for upset tummies but I usually go for ginger ale rather than ginger cake:)

  2. I first heard of this kind of bread in a book about Virginia Woolf:

    And more here:

    I made it once, and it was fun to look at as well as eat.:<)

    Your header photo is much like mine all these many miles away.

  3. I somehow missed when you posted this and was wondering where you'd gotten to!
    The curtains look absolutely professional. I've made most of our curtains over the years, recycling many of them for the various houses. The lining has gone baggy in the pair I've hung over the sliding door and I'm eyeing them with thoughts for improvement. Whatever I put up immediately acquires a fringe of cat hair.
    That gingerbread looks very good, but I can't work my way around the unfamiliar measuring. I assume 'treacle' is 'molasses'{?}
    Re ginger for unhappy innards: my late MIL advised hot milk with a lacing of honey and a good pinch of ginger. Tummy trouble or no, its what I fix when I'm rattling about of a sleepless night.