Mean Old Witch


Sunday, 31 October 2010

I have a love-hate relationship with this particular festival. Celebrating the turning wheel of the year is something I like to do.

(illustration from The Barefoot Book of Rhymes Around the Year by Marc Vyvyan-Jones)

 Halloween is the old celtic festival of Samhain and is a time to reflect on the coming winter darkness, the end of the year's growing and harvesting and also a time to remember those who have died. I like to mark it but in a simple, low key way. We carve pumpkins and I'm happy to hang up a few homemade decorations and to turn out a Halloween treat or two.

What I don't do is buy any of the halloween stuff that seems to swamp the supermarkets these days. Apparently Halloween is now one of the four most lucrative days of the year for retail, I can believe it. What I hate about all this rubbish is the effect it has on my daughter. My sons are unmoved by Halloween but my ten year old daughter is easily influenced by such things and thinks she must have things for Halloween because she's seen them in the shops. 

But what I really loathe and detest about this festival is......can you guess?  Trick or treating. I'm afraid I don't allow it . At.All. No, not one bit. I think it is little more than organised begging. Yes, I know one can organise a reciprocal affair with friends and neighbours, and I vaguely remember doing this as I child, but frankly I'm too lazy to supervise such an event besides the allergy thing makes it complicated and anyway I just don't like the idea of knocking on doors asking for sugary junk.
 We had callers last night and last year we had them on the 30th too. If you can't even get the date right then you certainly don't deserve treats.
 At Halloween I think I am entitled to become a Mean Old Witch (and at frequent intervals throughout the rest of the year too).
 I'm not that keen on carol singers either. Hummph.

So, this is our simple, junk-free, non-commercial, not-quite-sugar-free Halloween.

Jack o' lanterns
Scary face by my daughter and stars and moon by me.

Homemade decorations

Toffee apples
 using this recipe which I would increase by half next time as there was barely enough toffee to coat five apples.

Roasted, spiced pumpkin seeds.
 Drop in tomorrow for how to do this and more on how to use up every bit of your Halloween pumpkin.

This on our front door
which remains firmly shut all evening. I managed (just) to stop myself from writing 'bog off!' on it.

Happy Halloween!

And here's October's sampler :o)

Turning the Clocks Back


Friday, 29 October 2010

I wish I'd had my camera with me at Waitrose this morning. There, next to the apples was a tray of golden quinces. Not from far off Turkey but from England. 99p EACH! When I think that I must have picked some 250 from my tree. These were much better quality then mine, unblemished and all the same size.

The first frost of the season this week. Ice had to be scraped of my car.

Leaves have fallen, been swept up, been tossed in the air, and swept up again.

Chrysanths have been admired. These ones seem eternal.

And the dark evenings have prompted me to light my little candles again. The heating is most definitely on.
The year is turning.

: :

It's been half-term here in England. We often get good weather for Autumn half-term and this has been no exception apart from Tuesday. On Monday which was a particularly good day we went to Blists Hill Victorian Town Museum

Blists Hill is well worth a visit. We had a lovely time although we were a bit disappointed that the large ironworks wasn't operating. I was hoping to see sparks flying and to hear metal clanging. My daughter is very interested in history and is studying the Victorians at school. She is a big fan of the Horrible Histories programme on CBBC which I find hysterically funny and so cleverly written. Younger son is studying the Industrial Revolution so the visit was relevant to him too.

It is really very well done, not one jarring modern note (apart from all the visitors with their 21st century clothes, mobile phones, and cameras). There is a fish and chip shop, a sweet shop, a bakery, a pub and a bank where you can change your money if you want to be really authentic. We took a picnic of pork pies, welsh cakes and apples which we ate in the little town park. The people next to us were eating pasta salad from plastic trays and drinking fruitshoots (the devil's work) which seemed anachronistic to say the least. After lunch the children joined the queue for the sweet shop where they bought pear drops and mint humbugs while C and I sat in the pub courtyard with pints of Banks' bitter and tried to ignore the annoying man talking loudly on his mobile phone behind us.

We will be turning the clocks back for real tomorrow night here in the UK. One hour back, back to Greenwich Mean Time. Use your extra hour well! 



Thursday, 28 October 2010

A load of balls for you today :o)
Two recipes from one of my favourite cookbooks.

  The More-With-Less Cookbook was published in 1976 and is a collection of recipes from the Mennonite community in America. The book has a Christian bias but I think its message is universal -that we should live simply so that others might simply live. It is all about using less of the world's resources. The recipes are for simple, unspohisticated  fare. There is plenty for vegetarians and those on a budget. Many of the recipes have become regulars in my house; keema curry, baked lentils with cheese, honey-baked chicken, Chinese fish and vegetables, sprouts salad (beansprouts not brussels) and potatoes with peas and ham. I've already shared three recipes from this book here, here and here. It isn't a pretty book. There are no pictures and being American it uses cup measures. I don't mind this and there is a useful conversion chart. The recipes are written out in a very user-friendly way and the spiral binding makes it even friendlier.
If you are concerned about how we in the first world are over-consuming the rest of the world's resources, if you are concerned about how much money you are spending on food each week, or if you are keen to cook more of your meals from scratch then you will find this little book a useful resource.

To the recipes. First Honey Milk Balls. These feature peanut butter so I thought I'd give them a go with sunflower seed butter.

Sorry about the blurry photo.

Walnut sized balls. My children liked them. Not really my cup of tea though.

Next was Cheese Ball. This is really just a version of potted cheese, that old-fashioned way of using up stale bits and pieces of cheese. 

I used smoked paprika instead of garlic salt.

It's about the size of a grapefruit. We ate some of it on oatcakes for lunch. Very nice too, mind you a simple bit of sliced cheese would have been just as nice.

The Quince Tree In October


Monday, 25 October 2010

Bereft of quinces but still leafy. What will November bring?

The Quince Diaries (7)


Sunday, 24 October 2010

We've had some lovely shining Autumn days lately.

Bright blue skies.

And warm sunshine.

I really hope it lasts into next week as it is half-term for us and C has a couple of days off.

The exquisite quince continues to dominate my life. I've managed to off-load a few on various relatives but I still have a goodly amount.

The quality is deteriorating though.
I cooked up some into a purée to store in the freezer. I like it with yoghurt for breakfast.

To do this I just peel, core and chop quinces, throw them in a pot with a little water and some sugar and cook gently until soft. Then I use a stick blender to whizz it into a purée.

Today we had one of my favourite and easiest things to do with quinces. Sir Isaac Newton's favourite pudding as described by Jane Grigson in her wonderful book Good Things.

Coring the quinces is quite an undertaking. If you don't have an apple corer then you're probably best off cutting them into quarters.

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