Saturday, 31 January 2015

Number of books read from my Reading List  - 2½
The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L Sayers was hugely enjoyable containing all the elements a fine detective story should do; an engaging detective, an intricate and clever plot, well-drawn characters and a detailed setting. 

The Runaways by Elizabeth Goudge was also hugely enjoyable containing all the elements necessary for a fairy tale; magic, animals behaving like humans, good triumphing over the wicked, wrongs righted and a happy ever after. A shame, I think for the title to have been changed from Linnets and Valerians to The Runaways. The original title seems much better to me. Also this particular edition (see my reading list for details) had several typos and missing words.

I'm half way through Housebound by Winifred Peck and again hugely enjoying it. It's about housework and is making me extremely thankful that I live in 2015. I'd never even considered dusting the dining room before sitting down to breakfast before reading this book.

Number of decent tv programmes watched - 2
Wolf Hall. Mark Rylance is staggeringly good in this, and Peter Straughan has done a wonderful job of condensing two enormous books into six hours of tv.

Foyle's War. Still excellent although not quite as enjoyable as the episodes set in Hastings during the war. Also, Sam seems to have lost all her joie de vivre since getting married.  

Number of times it has snowed in Worcester this January - 0
There have been plenty of bright frosty days though, which, as any Brit will tell you are much better than dark wet days.

Cake of the Month ~ Marmalade Cake


Saturday, 24 January 2015

This blog is five years old today. I almost forgot to mark the occasion, not that it really counts as an occasion, I can't think of other bloggers who celebrate their blogs' birthdays. It's a bit daft really, I probably should have really forgotten to mark the occasion but I haven't posted for over a week and I haven't made a cake for even longer so, two birds with one stone.

Five years ago today I had been making marmalade, a year ago today I made marmalade, today I made a marmalade cake. It's from Nigel Slater's first volume of Kitchen Diaries. It's just a 3 egg sponge mixture with a big dollop of marmalade added, baked in a loaf tin and iced with orange glacé icing. Nigel uses 175g each of self-raising flour, butter and sugar, 3 eggs plus 75g of marmalade. I used 6 oz each of flour, sugar and butter which is slightly less than 175g. I like imperial measurements for baking, they just feel right to me, plus on my scales it is really hard to see 5g increments.

Grease and line a 2lb loaf tin. I greased the sides and put a long strip of reusable liner along the base and up the sort sides.

Cream together until light and fluffy
6 oz (175g) soft butter
6 oz (175g) caster sugar

Add one at a time, beating well with each addition
3 large eggs

Beat in
2½ oz (75g) marmalade
zest of 1 large orange

Fold in 
6 oz (175g) self-raising flour

Pour into the prepared tin and bake at 180°c (160°c fan oven) for 45-55 minutes but start checking after 35mins with a skewer. It's done when the skewer comes out of the cake clean. Nigel Slater says 35-40 mins but I found that no where near long enough. Mine took 55mins but that might be my oven, so do keep an eye on it.

Allow to cool in the tin for a few minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack. When completely cool ice with a thin glacĂ© icing made by mixing 100g icing sugar with 1- 2 tablespoons of orange juice. I used blood orange juice and yes, I know I've gone metric for the icing but 100g is easier to see on my scale than 3½ oz. Exact quantities are not critical, it just depends how runny you want your icing. I used 1½ tablespoons of juice which made a very runny icing. You could ditch the icing and poke holes in the cake and drizzle with a mixture of orange juice and sugar like a lemon drizzle cake. Chocolate ganache would be another rather gorgeous alternative.

Just Now I Am....


Friday, 16 January 2015

I'm sure you realise that  'Just Now I Am...' is a euphemism for 'some random pictures I took this week cobbled together into a blog post. 

Just now I am.....

~ Not making marmalade. Yes, the marmalade season is in full swing, it is spread all over my instagram feed but I am not joining in this year. The jar in the picture above is the third of my batch of eight from last year. There are also two jars of lime marmalade from the year before. Clearly we  will not be running out of marmalade before January 2016. In fact I am seriously considering doing no preserving at all this year. Why?

3 apricot jam
3 blackcurrant jam (july 2013)
3 quince jelly
2 crab apple jelly (august 2011)
2 damson jelly (september 2011)
6 damson chutney
2 mint jelly

That's why. We just don't get through it. Not quite true, we get through the chutney but jams and jellies not so much. That said I quite fancy making some blood orange curd when I can find some blood oranges but that will be a very small batch.

~ Finding January colour and sparkle .
~ Walking everyday. Well, every week day. Mostly.

~ Reading The Runaways by Elizabeth Goudge and finding it delightful.
~ Listening to The Diary of Samuel Pepys with huge enjoyment.
~ Thinking about baking some gingerbread this afternoon.
~ Making use of some rather leathery smoked salmon trimmings in this kedgeree.

Chop a small onion finely and soften in butter, stir in a spoonful or two of curry paste or powder. Add enough cooked basmati rice for however many people you are feeding and stir it around in the spicy buttery onions. Toss in smoked salmon (I used 250g for four people). Add a handful of peas and handful of sultanas. Stir in some double cream if you have any (I did) and lastly place halved hard boiled eggs on top. We ate ours with hot mango chutney.

Any smoked fish is great in kedgeree.

~ Looking forward to opening a bottle of red this evening.

My Middlebrow Reading List 2015


Monday, 12 January 2015

A personal reading challenge to be read in no particular order by the end of this year.

This list has grown from a desire to not run out of reading material, to read some of the unread books on my shelves and to read some new authors. Also I enjoyed writing about the books I read last year and want to continue writing regular bookish posts.

I started by selecting three Dorothy L Sayers books after discovering that The Nine Tailors would be an ideal book to read at the turning of the year beginning as it does on New Year's Eve. I have not finished it yet due to my habit of only reading novels in bed -a habit I intend to break this year.

Then I read Cornflower's recommendation of The Runaways (also known as Linnets and Valerians) by Elizabeth Goudge and decided I must read it as well as finish the two Elizabeth Goudges I bought last year. This led me to tracking down some lovely vintage editions of some of her other works. They are not all in print and the 1970s paperbacks have the most appalling covers but there are hardback copies to be had (ebay) from the fifties and sixties which are both attractive and in pretty good nick.

And then there is my six month subscription to Persephone Books which I was given for my birthday. I have read one, received another and have four more to come. Plus there are a few Persephones already on my shelves which I have not yet read.

It dawned on me that all my chosen books were by women writers, all British and all written in the thirties, forties and fifties (more or less). This realisation led me to Scott's blog Furrowed Middlebrow. I've spent most the past week furrowing my middlebrow and if this sort of fiction is your thing too then I suggest you follow my example and visit Scott's blog, you will not regret it. As a result of my time spent there I added more books to my list several of which were already on my shelves.

Despite all my books being from the same period written by authors with similar backgrounds there is a wide a variety of subject matter and style among them. There is romance, crime, mystery, family saga, stories with spiritual themes, stories with domestic themes, there is melodrama and comedy, and also a couple of children's books. Some are more literary than others and I shall enjoy the contrasts.  There are twenty-six novels (three are in one volume) on my list. One a fortnight then, which gives me two days to finish The Nine Tailors. I will be posting updates on my progress through my list plus more information on the books and my reasons for choosing particular books***.

And please note my reading is done the old-fashioned way, not on a device.

* Also published as Pilgrim's Inn.
** I shall be buying this in spring when Persephone republish it.
*** Nearly always because I like the cover.

I am a sucker for a pretty cover.

Coping With January


Monday, 5 January 2015

January can seem very anaemic after days of Christmas colour. It's easier to cope with dark mornings when there is feasting to be done. Once that's all out of the way though the reality of work, school and cold, desolate days can be hard to deal with.

I have several strategies to help me cope with January.

Firstly I remind myself that it gets lighter slightly earlier each day. I get up at about 6.30 and by the first week in March it will be getting light when I wake up. Yes, it's a while away yet but it will be here before you know it, look how fast Christmas comes round!

Secondly I have a therapeutic clear out. It's a good thing to do at this time of year, it's forward looking and positive. I'm not a hoarder so I never have very much to declutter but there's always something taking up space which could be better used for storing yarn or gin.

This year I have thrown out all my children's school reports. Yes really.
Every single one from George's very first one in summer 2000 to Tom's most recent report from sixth form college in November. I was very interested in George's school progress when he was five but in 2015 what George was learning in 2000 no longer interests me, and when I realised that the last time I read his reception year report was just before I filed it in June 2000 I knew there was no point keeping it or any of them. 'Does anyone want their school reports? I asked 'Nah' they replied. You won't be surprised to learn that I have not kept any baby clothes, first shoes or locks of hair either. I do have plenty of photos though including ultrasound scans of all three babies.

A thought - You could always scan or photograph school reports and file them on your computer. That way you get to keep them and create space for yarn and gin.

My last strategy for coping with January is to look for colour. There always is some, as I found at the end of my monochromatic walk around the church this morning.

Despite what my husband thinks I did not adjust the colour on this robin's breast.

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