Saturday, 21 July 2018

I Missed the Deadline + Recipes

"Just make sure you get my best side" she said.   

I did what I could, given that she was feeling too hot to move.

Earlier in the day I had suddenly remembered a recipe which I had read and wanted to bake - the trouble was that that was a year or more ago.   I had filed it away in my head for future use, but couldn't remember which book it was in.        I scanned the shelves, eventually my brain cooperated enough to let me know that it was probably in an old Women's Institute book.

Me: "I have a dozen of those, I need more information."

Brain: "Leave it with me.   Don't pester.   I'm working on it."

Which was when I took the dog for a walk, let my thoughts ramble around the countryside.

My brain cooperated.   I 'saw' a colour,  then a glimpse of a wire spine.  Red book, wire spine.

I headed home, through the fields of golden barley.     

The book I sought was one of the old WI books gifted to me from the estate of my old friend, the village beekeeper.   It had belonged to his wife Hazel; she had been a nurse and midwife, then during her retirement years she taught riding for the disabled and also encouraged local children to learn to ride.    Back in the day when there was a real sense of community in the village.

This particular recipe had intrigued me because it came with instructions that it was not to be cut under 6 months of baking.      Which, if I have counted correctly, means that it won't be ready in time for Christmas, darn it.

I baked it anyway.   

Paradise Cake.   

It is just a large fruit cake, with a couple of slightly more exotic ingredients.

5 oz sugar
4 oz margarine + 1oz white fat
5 oz beaten egg
1/2 oz s.r. flour
5 1/2 oz plain flour
4 oz crystallised ginger
4 oz crystallised pineapple
4 oz cherries
4 oz citron peel
1/2 oz ground almonds
2 oz chopped walnuts
1lb sultanas                                              Recipe:  Moss and Fenwick WI 1957

Cream together the sugar and the fat, gradually add the beaten egg.   Add the flour, together with the remaining mixed ingredients and mix together lightly.    Bake at 360F for two hours and when cold wrap up and put into a tin for at least six months.   Sprinkle with icing sugar before serving.

I'll let you know, in January/February or  maybe March...

Meanwhile, this is for Susan at e-i-e-i-omg blogspot  Aztec Coookies - chewy, full of good things.

This is a Sue Lawrence recipe, taken from her On Baking book. 

Aztec Cookies

170g/6oz walnuts, roughly chopped
284g/10 oz desiccated coconut
113g/4oz dried apricots (no-soak variety) roughly chopped
113g/4oz dark* chocolate, roughly chopped
1x397g/14oz tin of sweetened condensed milk

*The recipe calls for dark chocolate, chopped.   I use any variety, sometimes chopped or in chips.

Heat the oven to 160C/325F/Gas mark 3.

Roughly chop the apricots, chocolate and nuts.  Mix together in a large bowl and, using a wooden spoon, beat together until thoroughly mixed. 

Using two tablespoons, drop about 20 blobs of the mixture on to a buttered baking tray and gently flatten down the tops (I usually use a fork for this).

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown.    Transfer at once to a wire rack to cool.

Packed with goodness and a little bit of naughtiness...

Thursday, 19 July 2018

Blackmail by Email

Blackmail by malicious email. 

A couple of days ago my husband received an email from someone who claimed to have an explicit video of him.

The emailer addressed my husband by name, included a password he has used in the past, and meandered on to the real point of the exercise, which was to demand money.      He had 24 hours to pay, then after that the video would be sent to all my husband's contacts.

The blackmailer explained that the money should be sent by Bitcoin, and there followed a description of how one could obtain them.

Tick-tock.  Time is ticking. 

This is part of a new scam.     If you receive such an email do not respond to it.   Do not panic.

The police advise that you should change all online passwords and ensure that your computer security anti-malware and anti-virus software is up to date.

Do not pay a ransom.

Contact the police, or report it anonymously to Crimestoppers.

(Of course we all know this already,  but it is always worth a quick reminder!)

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Hot Stuff!

Up until a few days ago, Lincolnshire had basked in beautifully warm weather, not the baking hot temperatures which have toasted other parts of the country.    We were very happy.     

Then along came the humidity, plus a few degrees of extra heat, the air became heavy and moist - add to that all the tiny flies which come off the fields, when harvest begins, and things can begin to get a little unpleasant.

No point dwelling on the unpleasant though.      

At the weekend I took two of my grandchildren to one of the neighbouring villages,  they were holding their annual craft fair.

It was a hot, hot day, bright sunshine and deep, deep shadows.    Nothing stops these two though, race down the lane, turn at the arched red door...beautiful music is made behind that red door.  Seriously.     It is a recording studio.

Past charming old houses...

...down to the huge old rectory and on to the church.

This was taken earlier in the year, when they held their plant sale - always a brilliant place to pick up some bargains for the garden, including sweetpea seedlings.

The handsome church was built in the Georgian style in 1738, on the site of a larger building.

My granddaughter, aged six and a half, got the bargain of the century.    Some girls had set up a stall to raise funds for charity and were selling cakes, books, dvds, bric-a-brac, and Barbie things.     A Barbie palace, a coach, caravan, car, furniture, bits and bobs, plus several horses and goodness knows how many Barbie dolls.      The price?  £10 the lot.    

Luckily their mother was there, so we checked again - yes £10, for everything...would you like us to put them into bags?   (I imagine the subtext was please, take it all away, it has cluttered up my home for too long.)   Some Barbies have had a haircut, there are odd bits which are the worse for wear, but even so!

The girls may have had a small extra donation from Gran.  (Proceeds were for a very good cause.)

Back home, to a rapturous greeting from Toby Too, he was also feeling the heat but was still trying to get someone to kick a ball around with him.

The sweetpeas are coming in thick and fast now.   I was surprised to find that they are almost all hot and pink in colour, could have sworn I chose pale and ethereal this year!    I can't complain, they were a bargain.

Even when it is hot, people still want to eat - alas!    The cake tins were empty, so was the bread bin.

I made another batch of these - Aztec 'biscuits', surely one of the easiest recipes - just chopped apricots, walnuts, chocolate (I often use choc chips) and lots of dessicated coconut mixed with condensed milk and then baked for 20 minutes.

I don't eat them, but somehow they disappear at a rate of knots from the biscuit tin.    Husband and grandchildren find them irresistible.

I also made a batch of bread - I prefer sourdough, but this is milk bread, much softer and it also keeps well.

Today is a little cooler, which makes Toby happy.     The fields are looking ripe and ready, poppies everywhere, the smell of hot barley is in the air, even on an early morning walk.       

I'm not complaining, I like the kind of heat we have here (not the humidity) but I am glad that I don't have to work in it...and if I happen to nod off after lunch ... so what?

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Herb de St Pierre - Samphire!

Eagerly anticipated and greatly enjoyed - samphire (local pronunciation:  samfer)  also known as glasswort/Herb de St Pierre.

It is a green succulent seaweed which grows freely along the mud flats not too far from here.     It has fleshy branches rather than leaves.   

Wash it thoroughly, with many changes of water, to get rid of the sand and algae.   Then drop it into boiling water and cook it for a few minutes.   Drain it and serve with lemon wedges.   Some people dress it with olive oil or butter, we don't.   It is fine just as it is.

To eat it - you simply strip away the flesh from the stalks, preferably with your teeth, but the more polite among you may use a fork - if you must!  

This is what remains, the inedible stalks.  

It is absolutely delicious, one of those seasonal treats which we enjoy to the max and then eagerly anticipate the following year.

Some people pickle it - but I don't like it that way.    It is a salty seaside treat best enjoyed young and fresh, not pickled and even saltier, when it becomes something entirely different, but that is just my opinion.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Friday, 13 July 2018

A Snapshot of English Village Life

The marquee has been erected down by the tennis court.    The catering vans are dropping off the china and glassware.    Meanwhile, the gardener has been busy mowing lawns and trimming verges, making everything look fabulous for the big day.

Let me take you for a quick tour of the little church - now clean and sparkling and smelling of a heavenly blend of florists shop and beeswax.       

The bride's mother did all the flower arrangements - very beautifully, mainly white and green.   

Even the old knight has a small floral arrangement.

Every window ledge, the pillars, the pew ends, the altar and the font - plus any other accessible place has been dressed and adorned beautifully.

The 1867 organ was in no need of beautification,  just a tickle with a feather duster.

I wonder how many times it has been used to bash out a wedding march.

The larger windows had two arrangements, it is difficult to get an idea of scale, but they are large!

Small touches here and there.    

It is all set for a truly beautiful wedding.

The bride's mother stopped by, just as we were having a final flick around with a duster.    I suddenly found myself enfolded in a huge embrace, receiving a hug of thanks - oh, and she had spotted a mouse when she was doing the flowers, so she had left some mouse treats.       

She may be the bride's mother but she is also a farmer's wife and a retired doctor, my GP until she retired!   Practical, funny, and a larger than life personality.

The village is surrounded by golden fields and parched grass.  The weather has been much cooler for a day or two, still no rain.    

Lavender and daisies are still doing well.

So are the roses.

I have gathered lots of rose
petals and, thanks to Jennie at Codlinsandcream2 blogspot,  have learnt how to dry them in the microwave.   It takes seconds and they retain their colour.

Beautiful petals ready to make pot pourri, later in the year.

Bad things have been happening at either end of the village, diesel stolen from one farm and an attempt to steal a collection of motorbikes (another one!) from a farm at the other end.

Everyone is on high alert.   

Rural crime is on the increase, even here in paradise.

They won't get us down, the big event this weekend is the wedding.

Have a lovely weekend.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Simple Pleasures - Two Brown Hares

I came across this post, written two years ago and not posted, for some reason.    At the time I was still writing as Felicity and everything, including our animals had been given alternative names - ie Toby, the dog, had been disguised as 'Dobson', even the cats had different names and I had renamed our village as 'Little Bunting'.   'Cowslip Cottage' is a lovely old cottage in a village just a couple of miles away, it belongs to my son and his wife.   It was a wreck when they bought it, we helped out with the renovation work.    I tell you all this, lest you become confused about what the heck I am on about.

Written almost exactly two years ago.

After weeks of heavy, low, cloud Lincolnshire is again bathed in sunshine and warmth.  Some days have been unpleasantly humid but today seems just right for me, but then I am simply lounging around and relaxing.  It is wonderful, but it does feel a little odd after putting in so many months of hard work down at Cowslip Cottage.

My morning walks with Dobson  are slightly more leisurely, though just as early, as I can't seem to break the habit of waking around five am, in order to be ready to go down to the cottage and work.

Luckily, I love early mornings.  The lanes are quiet and the fields are peaceful.

As I waited for Dobson to finish sniffing at the cobbled base of the village signpost I was surprised to see a beautiful muntjac deer slip out of the hedgerow and cross the lane.  She was just a few yards away, silent and beautiful.  She paused, looked me in the eye, then melted away into the hedge on the other side of the lane.

Dobson was oblivious, his attention was completely taken by some amazing smell, thank goodness.

We left the lane and walked through fields of golden barley, meandered across the old railway line and down the other side into more burnished fields.    The sun was pleasantly warm, birds were singing, the sky was blue and it was a time of perfect contentment and happiness.

Back to the present:    The cats got me up at 4.30am, I took an early walk with Toby and was thrilled to see two very large and handsome hares leisurely running along the lane in front of me.   They ran straight along the middle of the lane for a good 100 yards, perhaps more, before turning off into a field.   Beautiful creatures. 

Lazy post, I know.    Still feeling a bit zapped after all the efforts on Monday.   I am becoming such a wimp.