June Plans


Thursday, 31 May 2012

May Sampler

Never mind flaming June, it's been a flaming May. 
A certain very special flame visited our city,  we had a whole week of hot weather, ice creams and ice lollies were needed urgently, and the flowers lifted their faces to the sun.

More warm sunny days for June please.
 There's a Jubilee to celebrate, three of my family are off on a short camping trip tomorrow, there's a bloglady meet at Kew (very excited about this!), and later in the month one of my household has a very big birthday to celebrate.
Looking at the sky and keeping my fingers crossed.

Cake of the Month - Elderflower Drizzle Cake


Wednesday, 30 May 2012

It is elderflower time in Worcestershire.
Yesterday I picked some flowers and started off my elderflower cordial.
While I was finishing it off this morning I remembered that I hadn't made a cake for May.
What could I make that would be simple, quick and seasonal?

I used Mary Berry's recipe from her Ultimate Cake Book replacing the lemon syrup topping with a liberal dousing of elderflower cordial. It is a very moist cake, not lunchbox material but excellent for an elegant pudding especially if you happen to have some stewed gooseberries to serve alongside. And maybe some cream.

Elderflower Drizzle Cake

In a bowl beat together well;
4 oz (110g) soft butter
6 oz (165g) self-raising flour
6 oz (165g) caster sugar
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons of milk
1 teaspoon of baking powder
the zest of 1 lemon

Scrape into a greased and base-lined 7-8 inch loose-bottomed cake tin.
Bake at 180°c (160°c fan oven) for 35-40 mins.
Leave it in the tin and while it is still hot pour over
200-250 ml of undiluted elderflower cordial (homemade or bought)
Finally sprinkle with 
1-2 tablespoons of sugar
Leave to cool.

Oak Apple Day


Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Today is Oak Apple Day.

The beautiful gates of Worcester's Guildhall were being festooned with (rather droopy) boughs of oak this morning.
A piper and a drummer were playing a merry 17th century tune and this sign had been erected.

"Parliament had ordered the 29 of May, the King's birthday, to be for ever kept as a day of thanksgiving for our redemption from tyranny and the King's return to his Government, he entering London that day."
Samuel Pepys  1st June 1660

Worcester was a royalist city during the civil war hence its motto fidelis civitas - faithful city. We have a museum called The Commandery all about the civil war.  All those pubs called The Royal Oak refer to the oak Charles II hid in. This clip will tell you all you need to know about Charles II 'the king who brought back partying'

I picked some oak leaves but couldn't find any oak apples.

Monarchy in the UK
Go Queen!

Even more information here at Royal Oak Day

Delicious Icy Treats


Friday, 25 May 2012

demanded Tom on his return from school yesterday,
'What delicious icy treats have you prepared for us on this hot, hot day?'
Startled by this uncharacteristic mode of speech all I could do was stammer
'erm, ice cubes?'

Today I set about providing some delicious icy treats that would please everybody.
No money was to be spent.
I had grapes, tinned peaches and oranges.

Frozen grapes are a fabulous healthy snack on a hot day.
They must be eaten frozen though, don't defrost them or you will end up with mushy blobs.
I simply spread my grapes on a baking tray and froze for a couple of hours.

These are peach and orange lollies made by blending a 400g tin of peaches plus their juice with the juice of three oranges.



Thursday, 24 May 2012

It was a warm evening.
We sat on the grassy roundabout in front of Worcester Cathedral and soaked up the atmosphere.

'They'll get a good view'
'Are you allowed to climb on the war memorial?'
asks Katie.

 There was a lot of local colour.

The moment was drawing near.

Flame can just about be seen in the middle of the picture

The bearer was not very tall.
All we saw was the flame's tip.

'Is that it?'
said Katie.
'That was it. Remember it.'

( George's friend Alex was a bearer. George went to watch him at the other end of Worcester.)

Daisies Are Our Silver...


Monday, 21 May 2012

Buttercups Our Gold.

The sun is shining so brightly on the buttercups and daisies today that I am reminded of that sweet children's hymn by Jan Struther. If you were at infant school forty plus years ago then you probably remember it too. If you don't remember that one then I am sure you remember When A Knight Won His Spurs also by Jan Struther* -my favourite.

Let us travel back in time 37 years to a similar sunny May afternoon. My 9 year old self is standing in a field  dotted with buttercups and daisies. I am wearing my PE kit and am making a daisy chain while in the distance my classmates are playing rounders. I am also playing rounders but as I am completely rubbish at batting, bowling and fielding I have been banished to the very deep field where no one is going to manage to send the ball. Now and again I pick a buttercup and wander over to a fellow rounders reject and hold the flower under her chin and say 'do you like butter?' The yellow of the flower reflects on her chin to show that she does indeed like butter.
 I love playing rounders.

The perfect way to spend a warm afternoon.

*Jan Struther is the pen name of J.Anstruther (see what she did there?) and is of course the author of Mrs Miniver.


I can't find Buttercups and Daisies on Youtube but here is When a Knight. Enjoy.

Another edit.
Anne from Life in Mud Spattered Boots has very kindly found a clip of Daisies Are Our Silver. The singing begins at around 27.



Wednesday, 16 May 2012

A posy of garden flowers inspired by Concha's weed bouquet. Concha's post on the subject of authenticity in blogging is well worth reading.
Should bloggers reveal more about their lives than they do? Should they only show the pretty and never the ugly? Apparently it as a subject causing much discussion in the blogosphere.
My view on this is simple; bloggers should write about whatever they like. 

To go with my posy of flowers I have a posy of websites which I love.

1) Ocado. I now do my main food shopping with Ocado. I find I spend less than when I am in a store, I can plan more effectively and take advantage of special offers. I have two or three weekly orders placed at a time which arrive on a Monday morning and which I can edit  up until Sunday evening. Only once have they substituted items and the quality of the goods has always been excellent. The drivers are always polite and friendly.

2) Weight Loss Resources. Please skip this if the subject of weight loss bores you., it bores me too.
However, this site has made the whole mind-numbingly dull subject of calorie counting easy. For a long while my vague 'just eat less' tactic has been failing me. It became clear to me that to lose weight one must put in some work. Dietary accounts must be kept in some form and counting calories is one effective way to do it. The best thing for me about this site is that it calculates the calories in my own recipes. I just enter the amount of servings and all the ingredients and it works out the calories plus other nutritional information.
There's no pressure on you to eat particular foods you simply log everything that passes your lips. I spend a few minutes whilst drinking my breakfast coffee planning and logging my day's eating. It's easy to edit if you deviate from your plan. I always have calories to spare at the end of the day, and yes the weight is coming off slowly but surely.
You can do a free trial for 24 hours to see how it all works. 
Oh, and it is a British site so the database is full of British products measured in imperial and metric.

3) Pinterest -wait, didn't I say something about closing my Pinterest account? Here. I changed my mind, I missed my boards. I missed my Delicious and Healthy board especially. It was so inspiring.

4) Sporcle. I can't do without my daily dose of Sporcle. This quiz site is responsible for me being able to name all the countries in the world in alphabetical order and all the American presidents -in any order, just give me a number between 1 and 44 and I'll tell you which pres it was. Sad but true. Good for the brain though.

Sunday Kitchen


Sunday, 13 May 2012

Fed up with my blooming bluebells,( the replacements are in the ground by the way and not looking happy. At all) I turned as I often to do to food. Lovely sunny day food.

This delicious grilled chicken is a very slightly adapted version of a recipe in Nigel Slater's Real Food.
I cut a chicken breast per person into strips and marinated them in a mixture of fresh mint, garlic, red chillies, dried chilli flakes, lemon juice and olive oil. I left them in the marinade for about an hour and a half then grilled them on a ridged cast-iron griddle.

Delicious Grilled Chicken (adapted from Real Food by Nigel Slater)
For 5 people

5 skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips

Blend in a  food processor
2 big handfuls of fresh mint
4-5 cloves of garlic
juice of 2 lemons (or 3 limes)
2 red chillies, chopped
1 dessertspoonful of dried chilli flakes
4 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon salt

Pour over the chicken and leave for 1-2 hours.
Grill the chicken strips on a ridged griddle or under a hot grill, turning to ensure all sides are crusty and delicious.

This would be great with basil or coriander. Or, you could swap the herbs and chillies for spices, next time I make it I shall use smoked paprika.

And to follow, this lovely refreshing lemon curd ice cream. This was inspired by a recipe on the Ocado website for which I had all the ingredients -lemon curd, yogurt and cream but not the correct quantities. I went ahead and made it anyway using what I had.

Lemon Curd Ice Cream
Makes about 900ml - 12 scoops
Make a few hours ahead to allow for freezing.

200ml lemon curd (I used homemade, recipe here)
200ml double cream
500ml thick natural yogurt (I used homemade but bought Greek yogurt would be good here)
2 tablespoons of honey.

Whip the cream until if forms soft peaks, mix in the other ingredients and pour into an ice cream machine and churn until thick and frosty. Then transfer to the freezer to firm up.
If you don't have an ice cream maker pour it into a plastic or metal container and freeze. Take it out at hourly intervals to beat up the ice crystals.

The Wrong Flowers


Saturday, 12 May 2012

Farewell and adieu to you fair Spanish bluebells,
Farewell and adieu to you bluebells of Spain,
For you are not what I ordered which were sweet woodland bluebells
And I hope to replace you as soon as I can.
(To be sung to this tune)

Not what I had in mind

My supplier is very sorry and is sending me 100 native British woodland bluebells (hyacinthoides non-scripta)'in the green'.
All well and good but it means I have to plant them and I'm someone who loves gardens but hates gardening. Pulling up the Spaniards has wiped me out for the day.

But there are compensations.

To my Spanish readers
Please be assured that is only Spanish bluebells I dislike and not Spanish people :o)

Pineapple-Chilli Salsa


Wednesday, 9 May 2012

I can't stop eating this. It's bursting with flavour and all manner of good-for-you things.

Take one sweet, juicy pineapple. Peel it, take the woody core out and chop into small pieces.
Tip into a bowl along with its juice.
Take two red chillies, de-seed and chop finely remembering to wash your hands well after handling them.
Add to the bowl.
Chop a small to medium red onion and add that to the bowl.
Add about 200g of cooked frozen sweetcorn (or tinned).
Squirt on the juice of one lime and sprinkle on a heaped teaspoon of soft brown sugar.
Mix everything well.
Season with salt to taste.

Serve alongside grilled or baked fish, grilled chicken, sausages, steak or pork chops.
Congratulate yourself on creating something absolutely delicious out of fruit and vegetables.

Jewellery Box


Saturday, 5 May 2012

I have some nice bits and pieces of jewellery. I hardly ever wear it though. I got out of the habit when my children were babies. Having your earring grabbed by a small child is not much fun. I like long necklaces and pendants but I don't seem able to wear them properly. They will insist on encircling themselves around one boob rather than hanging gracefully between both. I'm not good at brooches either. I can't position them in the right place, they look wrong where ever I put them and my fingers are too pudgy for rings.

 Recently I accused Charlie of never buying me jewellery. He felt,rightly, that this was unfair and proceeded to list the items he had bought me in the 23 years we have known each other.
'There was that heart-shaped thing that opened with the Japanese writing on it'
'The what?'
He meant the round silver locket with the celtic knot pattern in the picture below.
'Ok, but that doesn't count because I asked for that'

'Yes, but I told you to buy that as well'

'What about that spinny thing?'
'Spinny thing?'
'Yes, that necklace with a silver disc which spun when you pulled the chain so that it said 'I love you', like one of those toy things'
'You know, the spinny thing'
'I have no idea what you are talking about'
'Yes you do'
'I have never set eyes on any piece of jewellery like that in my life'
'Was that not you?'
'Apparently not'

Before you get the wrong idea I should point out that marital harmony is intact. 
Just about.

In Season Now...


Thursday, 3 May 2012

Waterlogged may blossom 

with warm lentils in honey-mustard dressing, a poached egg and a sprinkle of Parmesan.

Gull eggs
The egg in the picture above is a common or garden hen's egg.
I did not purchase gull eggs for

this reason.

I did wonder later how on earth one comes by gull eggs. I thought it was illegal to take eggs from wild birds.
I visited Daylesford with Ali after a morning chatting in Chipping Norton.
My children were rather alarmed at the prospect of my meeting 'someone off the internet' but I was confident that Ali would not turn out to be a nutter. She didn't. Phew.
Thank you Ali for a lovely day and for not being a nutter.

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