Tuesday, November 24, 2009

At last..

Marmalade of apples, raisins and shallots:

This says the quantities serve eight. And it goes well with pates, terrines, cold meats or cheeses.

350g Cox's apples
250g shallots, peeled and halved if large, then chopped
50g raisins
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 nutmeg, freshly ground
275ml strong dry cider (actually I used 330ml)
55ml cider vinegar
25g dark muscovado sugar
1/8 teaspoon whole cloves.

To prepare the apples, wash, core and cut into quarters (no need to peel), then slice each quarter into three (I found this varies with the size of the apples). Place them, along with all the other ingredients, into a medium saucepan, bring everything up to a gentle simmer and just leave it to cook very gently (without a lid) for 50 - 60 mins, until the liquid has reduced and the mixture looks sticky
and glossy. I then spooned the marmalade into warm jars, covered with paper circles and then with pretty mob-caps made from bits and pieces of fabric I've saved.
If you cut the fabric circles out with pinking shears, it makes a lovely crinkly edge, and you can then tie them with ribbon as a nice finishing touch. Hand-written labels add to the warm, homely feel - and the finished jars of chutney/marmalade make lovely presents.

I hope you enjoy making this - it's really easy. I've now made two batches, the second with double the quantities, and both were equally delicious. Good luck..

I'm sorry that I still haven't done the Vegetable Lasagne recipe - I'm rubbish at working out the quantities and I tend to work on instinct to get it right - I'll try and put my mind to being more precise and get it done in the next few days. Tho' actually I'm gardening for my Therapist tomorrow, in Town on Thursday for my London BF's farewell party at her house, and then driving over to Sissinghurst on Friday to stay with my Aristocratic BF for the weekend. Maybe I'll do it on Monday...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Blow, blow, thou Winter wind..

Heavens, what weather! Yesterday I had arranged to drive across country to an ex-Advertising BF who lives in the middle of National Trust woodland in the middle of nowhere. It was a wild drive, with lashing rain and winds all the way, but quite an adventure really, and absolutely lovely to arrive at her gorgeous old house which looks as if it has been planted in the earth and then overgrown with old trees and wild plants. It's really magical. And then to be welcomed into the warmth of her house, which is comfortably cluttered with wonderful stuff! There are shells, books, ancient objects, fossils, rugs, throws, piles of jewelled fabrics and soft cushions, and paintings everywhere, both framed and unframed, because she is a prolific Artist (with a capital A). Her husband was also at home (he has a delightfully archaic building in the garden that he uses as an office), and he made us some fresh coffee which was just lovely. We had intended to go out and about to look at various places, but as the weather was so atrocious, we simply sat and nattered most of the day. We covered a lot of ground, metaphorically of course, and interspersed the day with refreshments and laughter. It was the best sort of day possible. Lunch was some lovely little pear and stilton tarts, loving made by my BF, with a salad and a glass of white wine. Perfect!

I had taken her a jar of my freshly made Marmalade of Apples, Raisins and Shallots - which is perfectly delicious, though I say it myself. It's intended to be eaten with either cold meats, pates or terrines, or with cheese. Yummy. I'll give you the recipe (though it's not my invention - actually it's from the Mail on-line and I came across it when looking for an article in their "You" Magazine). I have to say it was the simplest thing to make, requiring only a fair amount of chopping and a bit of simmering. I'm planning to make another batch, with double the quantities, to give to friends for Christmas. The jars do look very pretty with little mob caps made from bits and pieces of fabric which I seem to hoard and then tied with ribbon. I made some labels which I wrote in coloured pencils,and they just finish it off nicely. Hopefully, I've uploaded a photo for you to see - and of course I can't put it where I want to - it seems to be at the top of the page! Ah well, at least it's there.

This morning I was due to make and deliver a Vegetable Lasagne (another dish I'm now making for the Deli), but discovered I didn't have the dish in which to make it, so had to venture out into the wild weather to collect it. I've now made the thing, but since I started cooking the wind and rain have escalated into full-blown gale force with horizontal heavy rain hurling itself at my windows. I think I'll just take a few minutes to finish this and then hope that the gale subsides a bit. I drove along by the sea to collect the dish earlier, and the view was both amazing and awe-inspiring. The waves were being whipped up all along the beach and promenade, curling round both the piers, old and new, and looking like wild horses with foaming white manes and tails, galloping towards the shore and hurling themselves onto the shingle. Magnificent!

Perhaps I'll give you my Vegetable Lasagne recipe too, which is a combination of all the recipes I checked in my Cookery books and on-line. I added a few touches of my own, removing an aubergine here and adding a touch of Brie there. So look out for a culinary adventure in my next post - hopefully.

Monday, November 9, 2009


Every year I take the time to celebrate, or is it commemorate, the lives of those who died in the defence of our country and our freedom. The Lost Generation of WW1, and all those who have followed since then. Misguided as War undoubtedly is, we really cannot deny that those who have fought for us, and for King or Queen and Country, have been both heroic and tragic. The Remembrance Ceremony never fails to bring me to tears, and this year was no exception.

As it happened, I was driving up to London yesterday, to deliver Son's desk to him. This is the old oak desk which matches his chest of drawers, and lived in his bedroom in Cambridge. And since the chest of drawers has already been moved to the London flat, it seemed proper that the desk should follow - especially as it's the perfect size for his new computer. So this was why I was sitting in a traffic jam in my car with tears streaming down my face, and trying to sing "Oh God our help in Ages past". I'm relatively fine until it gets to the verse which says " Time like an ever-rolling stream bears all her Sons away" and then I dissolve. It's the simple thought of all those wonderful young men: sons, brothers, fathers, lovers, husbands, whose lives were wasted in the pursuit of power. What a terrible thing. It did make me feel very fortunate to have a Son who is (hopefully) in no danger of having to go to war!

I listened as the service continued, and was reminded of something I heard last week on Woman's Hour. Apparently, had the dead of the Wars been able to march past the Cenotaph (a rather macabre thought) it would take three and a half days! I found that dreadfully sad - how could such a waste of young life ever be justified? It was also said that Vera Brittain, famous writer of that WW1 period, who worked as a nurse in the war, didn't lift her head from her duties on Armistice Day because she had nothing to celebrate. She had lost a brother, three close friends, and her fiance in that dreadful War. And sadly her experience was pretty typical. My Grandfather also served in that War, and was very lucky to survive it. My Mother vividly remembered his homecoming in 1919, after five years away. (She was born in 1910, so would have been four when he left and nine when he came home.) They lived in Tottenham, and she recalled that the men from his regiment all came down the road together - those that had survived of course. They were all so infested with lice that they had to strip naked at the garden gates, leave all their clothes and kit to be burned and have their heads shaved to avoid contaminating their families. I imagine that the kettles boiled and the tin baths were well used that night. And my Mother remembered being given the top of his boiled egg as a treat!

Ah well, another year has slipped away, and have we learned anything about the futility of War? Of course not. Just look at Afghanistan. Last week alone more of our brave young men, and women, lost their lives. And so it goes...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Latest Heartache...

Oh dear, there's always something to worry about isn't there? I was doing my Grandmotherly duty last week, when Grandson was on Half Term holiday, and it was lovely to have him here, but he was very tired and kept saying that he didn't want to do anything much. (No wonder after six weeks of term and the fact that he broke his thumb only two weeks ago.) He was, unusually for him, very short-tempered about little things, and mostly I just dealt with it by giving him a cuddle or a bit of reassurance. After a few days he was feeling better, but he was obviously not feeling very secure, and talked a lot about family, which may be something they have been talking about at school. Of course that brings to the fore the fact that the Daughter's Boyfriend is not his real Father, something which I'm sure Daughter hasn't yet told him, and what with the Engagement and the planned Wedding, I began to feel that something specific was making him feel uncomfortable. As you will all know, I'm not happy with the situation - and with good reason - but I stupidly hadn't realized that Grandson might be feeling something similar.

Anyway, on Thursday we went down to the sea, him on his bike and me walking. It was a lovely day and he was mostly whizzing ahead with me bringing up the rear. When we got to the promenade he spotted a young family and stopped to watch them. There were four of them: a Dad, Mum and two small daughters, one probably older than Grandson and one a bit younger. They did look like a nice family: The Dad was helping one of the girls on her bike, and I just walked past until I realized that Grandson was still watching them. I wandered back and asked Grandson if he was OK and he said "I wish I had a family like that, Nana". Oh the heartache of that simple sentence - I couldn't believe what he had said - though it was perfectly clear. It was such a sad, and grown-up thing for a little boy of five to say. And I was so taken by surprise that I didn't ask him why or anything. I stupidly let the moment pass without trying to find out more. And I have heartily regretted it since, of course. It is, to me, the surest sign that my darling Grandson isn't feeling either happy or secure in the "family" that Daughter and the Boyfriend are trying to put together. I have felt for some time that Grandson knows instinctively that the Boyfriend isn't his Father, and I feel so bloody helpless, and so sad for him. When Daughter came to collect him on Friday after work, she just didn't want to hear anything from me. She said that she wasn't feeling very well (and she didn't look too good either),and she just wanted to get away. All I managed to say was that Grandson is not as happy or secure as she thinks he is. And hopefully she will think about that. It was very hard for me, because I knew how much he had missed her and could see how much he wanted to be with his Mum. They stayed to carve a pumpkin to take back with them for Hallowe'en and Grandson didn't want to go - he just wanted to stay here with his Mum - but she couldn't wait to get back to "Daddy". As Grandson sat in the car, he said "I love you very much Nana" and I said " I love you too my precious." Daughter said nothing and she hasn't phoned since then. It won't be easy, but I feel I really must tell her what her little boy said - it breaks my heart to know how he is feeling.

I know what you're thinking - it won't help. But, d'you know what, I don't think I have anything to lose. I feel pretty sure that I have lost my Daughter, for the time being anyway, and actually the most important person in all this is my little Grandson. She is a grown-up and can deal with her own stuff, but he needs to know the truth and he needs to have his Mother on his side. If he knows that the Boyfriend isn't his real father, he will hopefully be able to deal with his own feelings. He won't be forced into calling the Boyfriend "Daddy" and he won't feel guilty. And hopefully he will one day have that lovely family he wishes for. I'm not going to lie to him, and I'll make sure that Daughter doesn't. He's such a dear, honest and brave little boy, and he deserves the best.