I Love Not Camping - Day Three


Sunday, 31 July 2011

July's monthly sampler

I have a chicken in the oven. A whole roast chicken to myself. 
I'm roasting some potatoes and making gravy and bread sauce to go with it. My favourite meal.
I shall be feasting off it for the next few days.

I thought I'd better eat something healthy, so I have added some strawberries to meringues and cream.
Eton mess. Or, eaten mess as it will become.

The soap and the soap dish (a scallop shell) are completely dry.
Evidently I am the only member of my family not to leave the soap in a scummy puddle of water, and the only one to empty the shell every day.

Eating when it suits me. 
I aim to produce dinner between six and seven when everyone is home, but I'm finding I am eating much later while I am alone.

I Love Not Camping - Day Two


Saturday, 30 July 2011


Crème de framboise and prosecco
I do like pink drinks.


Goat's cheese pastries
(think I had this during last year's camping trip -apologies for the repetition)

And a meringue

I had six egg whites to use up (from the burnt creams). That makes a lot of meringues but they keep well in a tin.  Plenty for when the campers return.

Watching and listening to

You can't beat the CBSO and I never get the chance to listen to the Proms when everyone else is here.


The ongoing peace and quiet.

I Love Not Camping - Day One


Friday, 29 July 2011

All the peaches were hard so I decided to make Rossinis instead of Bellinis. 
A Rossini is strawberry purée and prosecco plus a little sugar.

Griddled prawns with garlic and parsley butter.

Chocolate biscuit cake

Melt together
300g dark chocolate
150g golden syrup
100g butter

Mix in 
a 250g packet of gingernuts, roughly crushed
100g packet of dried cherries
80g chopped dried apricots
60g chopped almonds

Spread into a square or rectangular tin such as a traybake tin. 
Press down with a potato masher and refrigerate.
Cut into squares when firm and store in the fridge.
Of course you can use any nuts or dried fruit you like, or indeed any biscuits.


Again. After I watched this for the first time in May I promised myself I'd watch it when they all went camping. In the meantime I read the book. I enjoyed the book immensely finding it accessible and engaging. Having Richard Armitage to visualise as John Thornton certainly added to the enjoyment. By the way, the tv ending is better than the book ending. If you've seen it you will know what I mean.


The peace and the quiet.

Burnt Cream


Thursday, 28 July 2011

Tomorrow, Charlie and the children are off to spend nine days pretending they are homeless on Bodmin moor.
Well they like it, but camping is not my thing.
I'm enjoying watching Charlie getting more and more uptight as he packs the car. I hear him say the same things he says on the eve of every camping trip;
'Two soft toys only'
'There isn't room in the car'
'Has everyone got nine pairs of pants and socks?'

George is now officially old enough to buy Christmas crackers! Hooray!* 
Yes, he is sixteen today.

His requested  birthday dinner is steak and chips followed by burnt cream.
The problem with burnt cream is getting the grill hot enough to burn the sugar without ruining the custard underneath. At Trinity College, Cambridge where this dessert first became popular in the 18th century they used a salamander emblazoned with the college arms to sear the sugar.
In the past I have made it by making caramel in a pan and pouring it over the custard. If you are not careful the caramel sets so hard and thick as to become almost impossible to break through and your  Amélie moment is gone.
But now, I have cook's a blowtorch. It does the job perfectly.

Burnt Cream 
or crème brulée if you insist, but it is an English pudding.

For 6 people

1 pint or 600ml of double cream
6 egg yolks
a few drops of vanilla extract if you like
caster sugar

1) Mix the egg yolks well with a couple of spoonfuls of sugar and the vanilla in a large bowl.

2) Heat the cream to boiling point.

3) Pour the hot cream onto the egg yolks stirring well. Strain the mixture to get rid of the balancers (the little strings which hold the egg yolk in the egg white).

4) Pour the custard into ramekins or a wide shallow dish, place them in a roasting tin and fill the tin with water to a depth of about an inch and half.

5) Put in the oven at 140-150° c for about 30 mins.

6) Cool and refrigerate overnight.

7) Before you are ready to serve them sprinkle each one evenly with caster sugar and burn with a cook's blowtorch. I recommend you watch this for more detail on how to do this.

*Crackers, apparently, are classified as a low grade firework. Can you believe it?

The Quince Tree in July


Monday, 25 July 2011

Today, the first of the summer holidays, we are enjoying:
barley, chickpea and feta salad
(barley leftover from barley water making),

British berries all going cheap at the supermarket,

summer weather,

and The Quince Tree

Mellow Yellow


Sunday, 24 July 2011

Goldenrod and yellow daisies are the only flowers in my garden at the moment.

More squares for my cookbook blanket.

Chili For Campers


Saturday, 23 July 2011

School is out for summer. 
We have bid farewell to the primary school that has been a part of our lives for twelve years.
Katie wept all the way home.
Tom returned from his school bearing a certificate for 100% attendance again -he gets one every year. The award includes a £5 gift voucher, but apparently, it is seriously uncool to get this award and he tells me he will not be getting it next year.
Now school is finished our thoughts are turning to holidays.
Charlie and the children are all going camping soon with Charlie's sister and her children. Their campsite is one which allows campfires and Charlie wants to be able to impress his sister with at least one good meal. Apparently it doesn't have to be a meal that he has cooked; a meal cooked by George will do.
So, yesterday evening I taught George to make chili.
I'm not convinced a dish that needs slow simmering is ideal for a campfire with no temperature control but that's what they want to cook.

I made up a little jar of the spices I use in my chili for them to take with them.
I used crushed chillies, ground cumin, ground cloves and oregano.

I like to use passata rather than chopped tomatoes in dishes like chili and bolognese. I like the smooth, rich texture it gives. I think tinned tomatoes, especially if they are whole ones make for a watery dish. I also like to put a tin of baked beans in with the kidney beans. Sometimes I throw in frozen sweetcorn.

While George was cooking I wrote the recipe down for them to take with them.



Thursday, 21 July 2011

I let them festoon the bush for a long time, the pale, gleaming beads overlooked by the blackbirds.
But they couldn't stay there forever.

They are an albino variety of redcurrants. 
I think this one is called Versailles Blanche.
It is sweeter than the redcurrant.

In France they make Bar le duc jelly with whitecurrants, an extremely expensive delicacy due to the labour intensive method of production. Epépineuses* use a goose quill to remove the seed from each currant without damaging the fruit. The currants are then suspended whole in the jelly, about 200 in each 3oz jar.

Eliza Acton writing in 1840 has a method for a 'Delicate White-Currant Preserve' which sounds a lot less trouble.
'Boil together for seven minutes, an equal weight of white currants, picked with the greatest nicety, and finest white preserving sugar. Stir the preserve gently the whole time, boil rapidly, skim thoroughly, and just before taking off the fire, strain in the clear juice of one lemon to each four pounds of fruit.'

I had about two and a half pounds. I put most of them in the freezer. I will make them into a simple compôte to eat with thick yogurt later.
With the rest I made a tart based on one from Nigel Slater's Tender Vol 2.  

It's a cheesecakey sort of dessert. 
First you melt some butter into which you stir biscuit crumbs. I used gingernuts. 
Then you press the buttery crumbs into a loose-bottomed tart tin.

For the creamy bit Nigel uses a mixture of drained (to make it firm) fromage frais and yogurt.
I used crème fraîche straight from the carton and some of my homemade yogurt which I had drained overnight.
I sweetened the mixture with some icing sugar and spread it on top of the cooled biscuit base.

And finally, I scattered the currants over the cream and dusted it with icing sugar.

Wonderful combination of textures. The currants pop delightfully in the mouth like delicious bubblewrap.

*Epépineuse - deseeder

Many thanks for all your helpful advice about my various worn out things, much appreciated :o)

Worn Out


Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Things are wearing out around here.

First there's the loo.

It's the flush mechanism, not a horrendous blockage.
Charlie thought he could replace the part but bolts have rusted and are immovable.
A plumber has been called.
And we do have another loo.

Then there's my cafétière. It seems to deconstruct itself each time I plunge.
I drink a lot of coffee. Perhaps that is why the flush has worn out.

Then there are my trousers.
I have four pairs of trousers three of which I bought last autumn and this pair which I bought in January.

Only one pair has remained whole(free). I have managed to wear holes in all the others. Are trousers not designed for walking in these days? Do I walk in an unusually rough way? Are my legs just too close together? Why should a pair of £50 trousers last less than a year? I am now living in M&S black joggers which are only £9.50. 

Then there are my heels. Not worn out completely but definitely wearing out. 
As ever my efforts at getting fitter have resulted in physical damage. I have been diligently walking 10,000 steps a day for the past two months. It amounts to about 4 miles or 80 minutes of walking. A lot of my steps are accumulated with everyday walking around. A trip around the supermarket is around 2500 steps, washing the kitchen floor and mowing the lawn the other day added loads on. But, the walking around the block I've been  doing to get my total up to 10,000 has caused my heels to become rather painful despite sensible footwear. Achilles tendonitis I think.
 So I'm cutting back a bit. 
And eating an apricot-chocolate-coconut muffin.

Sieve together;
9 oz plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
4 oz sugar

Stir in 
3 oz desiccated coconut
2 oz chopped chocolate or choc chips
2 oz chopped dried apricots
I chopped the choc and apricots very finely together in the food processor, but often I do it by hand to make bigger chunks

In another bowl or large measuring jug mix;
8 fl oz milk
3 fl oz sunflower oil or melted butter
1 egg

Combine the wet mixture with the dry mixture stirring just enough to ensure all the flour is wet.
Spoon into muffin cases in a muffin tray.
Bake for 25 mins at 200°c (180°c fan oven)

Using muffin cases and a muffin tray is vital when making muffins. They must have room to climb as they bake. You can manage without the cases in a pinch, greasing well of course, but they won't rise much above the top of the tray. If you use little fairy cake cases and a bun tin they will not be able to rise and will be rubbery and unpleasant. That is what Tom's cookery* teacher  made him do when he made muffins the other day at school. They were 'completely crap' and no one ate them which was annoying as the ingredients were supplied by me. I'm not really sure why parents have to supply cookery ingredients, but anyway these were taken to school, ruined, brought home and binned.
* food technology is the correct term I believe.

Summer Time and the Cooking is Easy


Friday, 15 July 2011

This week has been one of those weeks when every evening has required a meal to be produced, eaten and cleared up before six. In winter a pot of meat and/or pulses stashed in the oven for a couple of hours is the answer but that's not what I want in July.

Monday and George was rushing off to cadets.
Something quick and easy with leftover potential for when he returned starving again. 
Fishfinger sandwiches.Yes, that is a whole packet of  30 fishfingers.

Tuesday was the first night of Katie's play.
There was a handful of leftover roast chicken to use up.
Chicken, bacon and pea spaghetti 
First I put a big pot of water on to boil for spaghetti.
I fried some smoked bacon lardons in butter, added the chopped chicken, a little flour, some of the chicken stock I had made with the remains of the chicken and a glug of vermouth (white wine would be just as good).
Next I chucked in a couple of handfuls of peas and the last bit of cream leftover from the weekend pudding. 

Wednesday and another performance at school.
Some ready-washed new potatoes halved, tossed in olive oil and roasted in a hot oven for 30 mins.
A pan of chorizo, peppers and peas.
Frozen petits pois are my go to vegetable.

Thursday another cadet night and another sandwich night.
Sausages roasted in the oven and a dish of fried onions.

Tonight no one has to be anywhere.
I'm grilling some mackerel fillets to eat with a salad of green and flageolet beans with mustard and herb crumbs (from Food From Plenty by Diana Henry). 
There'll be crustless pizza with tomatoes and sweetcorn for the mackerel-dodgers.

Fairy Cakes


Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Fairy cakes to celebrate a visit from the Fairy Hobmother.

The Fairy Hobmother is actually a chap called David from Appliances Online who visits blogs and grants kitchen appliance wishes. 

I wished for a new stick blender over on Ali's blog because Katie and Tom have worn out my old one making banana milkshakes and I rely on it for making pancake batter and soups nearly every week. 
My wish has been granted!

Why not try wishing for a new small kitchen appliance yourself?
It's easy - wait for a shooting star and close your eyes and wish.... or you could just write your wish in a comment on this post because the Fairy Hobmother will be flying by very soon.

Fairy Cakes
4 oz of soft butter
4 oz caster sugar
4 oz self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 eggs

Beat everything together really well.
Place 18 paper cake cases in bun tins and half fill each one with the batter.
Bake at 200°c (180°c fan oven) for 15 -20 mins until golden-brown and well-risen.

Lemon glacé icing
8 oz icing sugar
juice of one lemon

Add the lemon juice gradually to the sugar to make a fairly stiff icing. You may not need all the juice.
Add colouring if you like.
Spread on the cakes when they are completely cool.

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