Saturday, March 27, 2010

The allotment

A little while back, the Under Gardener was up on the allotment where there was also a man with a small plough.  Not very much money changed hands, and the Under Gardener had arranged for the man to brush-cut, plough and rotavate the bottom half of the allotment.  We've only ever cultivated one bed at the bottom, right down the back near the jungle. The rest has been untouched for years.

A few days later, the man returned, and within the space of an hour or so, the bottom part of the allotment looked like a well-tended small field.  Even the jungle had been chopped down - though not cultivated.  A project for another year, I think.

So now the Under Gardener is digging and manuring, and creating proper garden beds ready for planting later in the spring.  The visit to Australia in April will be lots of fun - but I do now understand Margaret and Jack's agitation that they should return to the UK form their December/January visits to Melbourne in time to get the seeds planted!  But I think I might set some seeds going before we leave and hope that the cat sitters remember to water them.

In the meantime, the Under Gardener has planted a bed full of onions and shallots.  I think we might get more onion sets and plant up a second bed.  The beds on the allotment are considerably bigger than the ones in the kitchen garden - but you can't have too many onions.  We have already run out of last season's.  I wonder if it would be excessive to buy a third freezer just for onions?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Reverting to last weekend ...

... and ignoring irrelevant distractions such as oiks in cars with horns ...

We went to Cambridge, as you may remember, to take Joan out to lunch on the Sunday.  We had intended to dash down and back on the Sunday, but Tabitha convinced us that it would be an even better plan for us to head down later on Saturday afternoon to play with her.  She had taken a few days off work and was looking for something to amuse her.

So we did.  And immediately took her back to her place of work to lay in Supplies for Saturday evening.  I had a fancy for Aussie burgers, so we raided all the various shelves with the Doings for Burgers.  While we were there, I grabbed a pretty collar for small dogs for Farley.  I realise that Farley is largely immobile and probably doesn't actually require a collar.  But I can't see why being a toy dog should disbar you from collarness, and this was quite a pretty one.

Back to the house we ambled, and passed the evening in convivial burger munching and wine quaffing and telly watching.

I got up on Sunday morning and was pottering around.  I wonder where that pretty little collar went.  I can't see it anywhere, and the bags are empty and folded up, ready to put back in the car.  I shall have a thorough search in the kitchen.  It may have got caught up with the various ingredients for the burgers, or in amongst the packaging, or somewhere. But no.  Right then.  I shall clear up the dining table and sort things out.  It may be there.  No.  Hmm.  Maybe I put it in my basket, or (for some weird reason) in my computer bag.  Nope.  That there collar is nowhere to be seen.  Odd!

Find that Taffa is now awake and chatting on Skype.  No, she hasn't seen it either.  And no, she definitely is not wearing it around her neck!!!!!

Give up pondering the whereabouts of the collar and go to ponder the question of breakfast instead. And to admire the beautiful morning which the weather dogs have seen fit to bestow upon us.

Was happily assembling the wherewithal for egg, bacon and tomato sandwiches, when The Builder came downstairs.  I mentioned to him, in passing, the mystery of the missing dog collar.  He looked worried.  No, no.  It's OK.  It's only a dog collar - it's bound to be around somewhere. It'll turn up. Eventually.  He looked even more worried.  Had I checked the receipt to make sure I had paid for it?

Well no.  I never check supermarket receipts unless the total looks wrong in some way.  Why would I have done it this time?  He looked even more worried (if such a thing were possible).  I began to get suspicious.  What did he know about the whereabouts of the collar?

AHA!!!!!  It seems that he had unpacked the shopping basket at the checkout and put everything on the roller thingy.  Suddenly, there caught his eye - a dog collar, caught up on the packaging for something else.  He assumed it had been left by a previous customer, although the one immediately in front denied all knowledge of it.  Despite the fact that I had, some days earlier, mentioned the possibility of getting Farley a nice collar, he didn't think to ask me about it.  And I wasn't paying attention.  I was listening to a story that Taffa was telling me.  And so it was that he handed the collar to the checkout assistant, telling her it wasn't ours - and the pretty little dog collar was sent back to the shelves!!!!!!!

It's no wonder I couldn't find it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And for those of you who have enquired - Joan wasn't too bad on Sunday, thank you.  She is in fair health and fair spirits.  She is a bit forgetful, but is managing reasonably well with the aid of a calendar and a daily "to do" list.  I think Penny and Jeremy keep her up to speed as well.  Mind you, I managed to confuse her mightily by telling her (when I rang on Sunday morning to confirm that she was still coming with us) that Taffa and Gaz would be going on their bicycles and not in the car.  I meant that they would be going directly to the pub. She understood me to mean that they would be cycling out to her place (which they have done in the past) and then coming with us in the car.  And had been thinking about where the bicycles could safely be stored. Plus she had put out water glasses for them because it was quite a warm morning (by comparison to recent temperatures) and they would be hot and thirsty when they got there!  Must remember to be more precise in my comments next time!!!

Am looking forward to the next few weekends.  This one coming, I have three days off (no particular reason for having Monday off - I just fancied it). Then I am at a conference on Tuesday and Wednesday in Nottingham.  I thought I might come into the office on Thursday to see if any of the missing people have come back (though mostly they are on holiday so probably won't have). Then it's Easter and SHU gets five days off. Then I am at work for three days - and then I get a weekend that lasts for TWENTY SIX days.  I am very excited about that weekend!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Releasing my inner Australian

You will, I hope, allow that it is extremely unusual for me to swear at complete strangers.  Rare, indeed, for me to make rude finger gestures.  But I did on Sunday afternoon!

We had taken Joan to The Plough in Fen Ditton for lunch.  Tabitha and Gareth joined us. They came on their bicycles.  The Plough is extremely popular. Deservedly so - they do lovely food and are not hugely expensive (£90 for 5; two courses each, plenty of booze).  So you need to book well in advance.  I rang as they opened last Monday and only had the choice of 12 or 5.  If you want a table at 1, you need to book a long time in advance!

Anyway. We got there, enjoyed a lovely lunch, had a good natter and a lovely time. Then, when it was time to go home, The Builder went to collect the car, and I escorted Joan to the door.  Taffa and Gaz went to inspect the facilities to make sure they were in adequate condition.

The car park has suffered sadly over the winter and is full of potholes.  There are some quite dandy potholes just by the ramp down from the door.  Now we clearly didn't want to drop Joan into a deep pothole full of muddy water.  She's only little - we might never get her out.  So The Builder had to stop so that the exit from the car park was blocked.  But really - how long does it take to get an elderly lady into the back of a car?  A minute?  Perhaps two?

A car pulled up and waited patiently for us to get Joan in and secure.  Another car came roaring up.  Couldn't go anywhere.  We, and the other car, were in the way. He leaned on his horn.  The Builder remonstrated.  The driver yelled that he wasn't tooting at us but at the car in front of him.  But he couldn't go anywhere cos we were in the way..  The driver yelled some more.  I made a rude gesture that I very seldom use, except in jest.  The driver retaliated by leaning on his horn some more.  And I am afraid that I suddenly got very, very tired of people who get impatient when you are manifestly doing something which is not going to take long, such as putting elderly, disabled people, or infants, or anything, into a car, and lean on their horns. And my inner Australian was abruptly and unexpectedly released. As we went to pull away I thanked the patient driver for waiting.  And told the impatient driver that, in my opinion, he was a f***wit. 

Tabitha tells me that this very driver, his female companion and two teenage persons had gone into The Plough as we were leaving, walked past the queues of people waiting for the next sitting and simply sat down at the table we had just left. When they were asked if they had a reservation, for the pub was fully booked until 6:00, they said no, but surely that didn't matter. They were hungry, there first and had sat down.  I suspect they were quite rude to the staff person for they were invited to leave. I don't think they were having a very good day.

Tabitha also tells me that as they drove past her and Gareth, waiting to ride away on their bikes (and Tabitha and Gareth had had nothing to do with any of this, other than observing) the teenagers in the back made rather rude gestures at them.  Nice!

I must confess that I did rather hope that the driver might have the tiniest of tiny strokes.  Not sufficient to seriously inconvenience him.  Just enough so that he found it hard to get in and out of cars and that people would have to wait for him.  And I hope they toot and toot and toot and toot. 

Although using your horn for such purposes is, in the UK, not strictly legal.

I suppose I should be rather ashamed of yelling and swearing at strangers.  But I'm not, not really.  People should be more patient. It's hard enough being elderly, little and disabled without people tooting their horns at you!

It's a very long time since I have used the fwit word.  A long, long time.  I'm not sure quite where it came from on Sunday.  But I think I might revive it.  It's a very satisfying word to use at someone who is indeed a fwit

Friday, March 19, 2010


In the end, the window fitters weren't all that troublesome.

They lobbed in at about 20 to 8 (fortunately we were up and dressed - or I was at least - if not absolutely ready for them quite so early).

They methodically removed windows and put new units in. The bathroom window was in and virtually functional by 5 past 8.

They were finished, done and gone before 1.

And Marlo hated them!  The Builder had covered the lounge chairs with the lounge curtains.  Marlo took refuge hidden under the curtains.  Until the window fitters advanced into the lounge room, whereupon he took refuge down in the cellar, emerging after it had all gone quiet, and absolutely covered in dust.

Might almost be time to clean the cellar!

In the meantime, it had become clear to me that I had vastly underestimated the level of chaos that having new windows put in would create.  I had, of course, realised that the window sills would need to be cleared, things would need to be shifted away from the windows, the kitchen benches would need to be cleared.  I had arranged to go in to work a little late to assist The Builder with this.  But as I realised that almost all the contents of the kitchen benches were now on the dining room table, that we had moved lots of furniture that hadn't been shifted since we moved in almost four years ago (dust, grime - the dead mouse was something of a surprise), that the house was in considerable disarray - it became all too clear that sorting it all out was going to take the rest of the day, and then some.

I rang and pleaded to have the day off.  Permission was granted.

So as the window fitters finished in the bathroom, kitchen and our bedroom, The Builder and I moved in with buckets. mops, dusters, cloths, Henry.  And we now have sparklingly shiny rooms.  The lounge and dining room are marked for Saturday, but shouldn't take all that long.  The spare room will have to wait until Easter, largely because I want to sort the cupboards out as well.

So - a result all around.  Clean, shiny rooms, removal of the dead mouse, dust and grime banished.  And lovely new windows.  They open.  They close. Then they can be opened again.  And they close again.  And we can see through them. And they let light in, and keep wind and rain out.  They're Lovely!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Beginning the 2010 planting

There isn't really very much to say this week.  Most of what I have to say for myself is on the food and garden blogs!

It was lovely actually to get out into the garden. Since we rolled into March, the weather has improved noticeably.  It's still rather on the cold side but we have seen quite a bit of sunshine and not much in the way of rain and NO snow!! 

I begin to think that I might be slightly, but chronically sleep deprived.  I sit down on Sunday afternoons to watch Songs of Praise, the news and Countryfile.  Songs of Praise is fine. I usually manage the news.  But for some reason, Countryfile drives me into a deep, deep sleep.  And it can't be because it's boring.  I really quite enjoy it. On those very rare occasions that I manage to stay awake for it!  Yesterday I didn't wake up again until nearly bedtime - which was far too late to have the slow-roasted breast of lamb I had planned for Sunday dinner.  We'll just have to have our Sunday dinner on a Monday. Although - we don't usually drink alcohol during the week, and I had a lovely bottle of Shiraz to go with it.  Might have to have Sunday wine on a Monday this week too! And maybe get just a little more sleep during the course of the week.  It might be that the 7 hours I get on most nights isn't enough. Or maybe I should relocate Countryfile to Mondays and watch it on the BBC iPlayer!!

Back at the beginning of the year, I ordered a Farley dog to come from Canada.  He was the dog in the For better or for worse comic strip that I've been following for years.  He took about six weeks to arrive. And once he got here (he's very cute!) I thought: really, I should have got one for Stella.  But it wasn't too late.  There were still Farley dogs in stock.  so I ordered one for Stella.  I got a message to say it was on its way and that it would take between 1 and 3 months to get from Vancouver to Melbourne. NINE days later I got a message from Stella to say that her Farley had arrived.  NINE DAYS!!!!!  Farley dogs are obviously much keener to go and live with Stella than they are with me!

The window men are coming tomorrow.  That should be fun!

Scotch eggs

Some weeks ago I was watching the Hairy Bikers on their Mums know best series. They were doing picnic food and decided to make Scotch eggs.  The Scotch eggs looked lovely. So much nicer than the fairly revolting specimens the supermarkets have on offer.  And it didn't look especially complicated or difficult.  I tucked the idea away in the back of my mind to contemplate it further.

More recently, I was reading someone's blog and they were discussing their attempts to make Scotch eggs.  They declared it to be a bit fiddly and a bit complicated but well worth the effort.  I decided to give it a go.

I didn't have the traditional pork mince to make pork sausage meat with. I did have some beef mince and decided to use that. No point making your own things if you can't be non-traditional!

Here are my ingredients:

Hard boiled eggs, beef sausage meat, plain flour, two eggs whisked, bread crumbs
I put the eggs into a pan of simmering water and simmered them for 6 minutes so they were hard boiled but only softly so.  I mixed some tomato paste and bread crumbs with the beef mince to form sausage meat. There was only enough meat to make four Scotch eggs.  We ate the other two eggs naked! (The eggs - not us!!!)

Eggs wrapped in a blanket of sausage meat

I formed the meat into blankets for the eggs and gently wrapped them up, taking care that no eggy bits were left exposed. I then dusted the resulting balls in the plain flour

Ready for the egg and breadcrumb coating
It is important that the eggs be double dipped in the whisked egg mix and the breadcrumbs. Then they'll become nice and crisp.

Double dipped and ready to go

Into the wok with you!

Don't be impatient when frying the eggs.  You need to make sure the sausage meat is properly cooked all the way through. But you also need to ensure the breadcrumbs don't burn!  I pretty much double cooked them, just as you would chips

Draining off the excess oil
I sat them on kitchen towel for a minute or two to drain off any excess oil - and for them to become cool enough to eat

We ate one each warm for lunch, and have one each left to eat cold for lunch on Monday.  I'm definitely going to do these again.  They weren't really fiddly or complicated.  They were much, much nicer than any that you can buy in the supermarket. They would make excellent picnic food. I'm keen to try them with pork, lmab and chicken mince. And now I'm trying to work out how you could make them so they were veggie friendly too

2010 is underway

I emerged this weekend, blinking, into the sunlit blandishments of the promise that spring might finally be on its way. The crocuses are just coming up. The primroses are just starting to flower. The honeysuckle has leaves sprouting. And after the longest, coldest, snowiest winter for over 30 years, the ice and snow appear to have been banished.  Although not yet the frost!

It wasn't a good winter not to insulate the greenhouse with bubblewrap!  The Builder was on his way down to do it in October when I made the comment that it was perhaps still a bit warm and that it might be better to wait a couple of weeks.  Hmmmm.  Bad plan! The temperature plummeted, the frost had its merry way, followed not long after by snow. It was months before we really had a chance to get back down to the greenhouse at the back of the garden. I still haven't made it to the allotment!  The allotment greenhouses aren't such a concern - there was nothing in them that was overwintering. There was quite a bit overwintering in the garden greenhouse.  Not all of it looks particularly well! The garden money we got for our wedding may have to go towards some replacement plants.

Some of the garden money has now gone on a new garden clock, a replacement blackcurrant bush (for one that for reasons best known to itself turned up its toes last summer), a new hellebore (I buy one or two each year to put in the bed with the twisted witch hazel) and some seed compost.

The Builder (who, I suppose, should now be redesignated as The Under-Gardener) has been digging up on the allotment and there are beds almost ready to receive the onions. Shortly there will be beds ready for the potatoes. And I am hopeful that we might get some fruit trees to put on the middle bit by the greenhouses - although we may wait for that until May when we return from our travels.

In the meantime, in the kitchen garden the sprouting broccoli is just starting to show some sprouting bits.  The cabbages are beginning to heart. The sprouts and caulis disapproved very strongly of being covered in snow for all those weeks and have given up.  And the pigeons are making merry with one bed of cabbages and broccoli.

I have put 500g each of early onward pea and aquadulce claudia broad bean seeds in the two beds by the greenhouse.  I've sown some sweet pea, radish, cucumber and coriander seeds.  We've filled a box with potting mix and planted carrot seeds.

There are two boxes of  baby carrots growing in the greenhouse.  Once the weather warms up a bit more, we might move them outside. 

The new carrot box we filled with compost we attempted to grow Christmas potatoes in last autumn.  the potatoes failed dismally.  Only one tuber produced haulms, and that was killed by the hard frosts we had in November.  There were no potatoes in evidence when we had a dig around in the potato bins in December.  You can imagine our surprise, then , when we found these in the bottom of the bins when we were emptying them out!!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Call out the divorce lawyers

I have decided that The Builder and I may need to get divorced!

Through my younger days I had quite bad psoriasis, mainly on my elbows.

Gradually, the elbow on my left arm cleared up. The right elbow remained troubled, sad, scaly and ITCHY.

One day, I woke up and realised that my elbow had been clear of psoriasis for some time.I thought back, and realised that it was more or less when Ross went back to Australia. Freyja had gone back at a similar sort of time, leaving me and the cat in sole possession of the flat.

Eventually, everyone trickled back. Austin, Julia, Ali and Zoy stopped by for a few weeks, but by then I had moved down to the botanic gardens with The Builder (into a house alongside the park, you understand – we weren’t in a huge cardboard crate in the park itself). I stopped thinking about psoriasis and set about enjoying all the comings and goings.

Time past. My skin remained itch-free

Then The Builder and I got married.

Almost immediately, I came down with a scaly, itchiness in my ears.Can you get psoriasis in your ears? Dunno – but mine sure were itchy. And scaly.

Then I came down with a scaly rash on my right kneecap. Never had a rash there before. And then, my elbows came down all over itchy and scaly.

It is perfectly clear to me that I am obviously allergic to marriage, that the allergic reaction manifests itself as psoriasis and that the only solution is an immediate divorce.

The Builder has suggested that it might be a cheaper and less time-consuming move to apply some of the vast quantity of E45 dermatological cream that we have lying about the bathroom, especially if I am not actually planning to move out. He may well have a point. We certainly have lots and lots of it, and a little goes a very long way. I’ll do that, then. Hold off the divorce lawyers!!

We had a lovely evening on Saturday. We had arranged to meet Freyja together with Noel and Ellen, the two Kiwis who came for Christmas lunch, for a meal at Zeugma, a Turkish restaurant in Sheffield. They do rather nice and plentiful plates of food which are not hugely expensively. I had learned from previous experiences and made sure I didn’t have a whole lot to eat in the course of the day! Kal, who had been at school with Freyja and for a time was her gentleman attendant, was a happy and unexpected addition to the party. We had a lovely evening. The food was good, the company was pleasant. It was nice to catch up with everyone.

But The Builder wishes it to be clearly understood that when Kal suggested how much his share of the bill would come to and he (The Builder) insisted that it should be £3.50 more – in the general hubbub of conversation he had thought Kal had said his share would be £50, which would clearly be a ridiculous amount for a 6th share. In fact, Kal had said £15, and the rest of us were a bit surprised when The Builder insisted it should be £18.50 – especially since the next thing he said was that Kal should put his wallet away and we would treat him. I will admit, though, that it was very hard to hear in the restaurant, especially when the nice, quiet people on the table next to us were replaced by a very noisy crowd indeed!!

Noel and Ellen are heading back to NZ mid-May. We must arrange to see them again before they go.

Sunday was pleasantly peaceful. And extremely sunny. And remarkably cold! I spent most of the day in the kitchen running up supplies for the freezer. I was very pleased with my homity pies and extremely pleased with my soups. My roast pork was rather delicious too. Not so sure about the venison, mushroom and ale casserole. I am still having trouble convincing my mind that venison is actually food. It isn’t as though it tastes unpleasant. It’s just that ever since Tony bred deer through the 70s and 80s I’ve tended to think of them as pets and not food. Which is remarkably inconsistent of my mind because it has no trouble recognising home grown sheep, ducks and chickens as food and would have no trouble with cows and pigs, although I have never actually grown them. I shall work on it!

It was extremely sunny and very bright when we left home yesterday morning at 07:00. And extremely cold. Minus 8.5!! It was a full 10 degrees warmer this morning. Which may only be plus 1.5, but at least it was a plus! And it’s still sunny, just not quite as bright as it was yesterday. The Builder is hopeful of getting up onto the allotment and continuing his digging progress. I will very, very soon begin to have things to say on the garden blog :-)

Monday, March 08, 2010

Homity Pie

Last Wednesday, as we were thinking about making our various ways to Japanese, Freyja said that it was a great pity neither of us had time to dash to the Blue Moon cafe for some homity pie.  Indeed it was. But it set me to thinking.  Homity pie couldn't be *that* difficult to make, surely.  After all, it's basically just mashed potato, leeks, peas and cheese in a pastry case.

So yesterday I made some.

The Builder peeled a mountain of potatoes, which I simmered in a pot of vegetable stock (I used the potatoey vegetable stock afterwards to make a split pea soup - frugality in abundance at our place.  Giggling at the idea of abundant frugality!!)

Anyway.  I mashed the potatoes with a tub of extra light philadalphia cheese and added some sauteed leeks and garlic and a healthy handful of soya beans (didn't have any peas).

I made a light shortcrust pastry and lined six small foil dishes with the rolled out pastry.  I then put a large dollop of the mash and vegetables in each one and baked in the oven until the pastry was pretty much cooked.  I didn't bother blind baking the pastry. I figured the mash would cope with being in the oven for half an hour or so.

When the pies were very nearly cooked I put some grated cheddar and parmesan-style cheese on top and turned the oven up to brown the cheese.

Five of the pies are in the freezer. The sixth I divided up for The Builder and me to try as a taste test. And very tasty they are too.

It was quite a foody weekend.  We went to Zeugma Turkish restaurant in Sheffield on Saturday night. And yesterday in addition to the pies I made a pot of venison and ale stew, a pot of split pea soup and a smaller pot of Japanese style chicken noodle soup. And we had a roasted pork joint for dinner with roasted potatoes and veg and an apply gravy.

Now, if anyone can enlighten me as to why they're called "homity" pies, I would be very grateful. I know they came into their own during WWII as an austerity food - but why the name?

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Fish and chips for dinner

... And very delicious they were too

I oven cooked the chips, so they were pretty much chip shaped roasties :-)

We had broad beans and runner beans from last season's veg crop.

And a lemon and white wine sauce.

And the fish?

The fish was a piece of monkfish tail, which I bought at Chatsworth at the weekend. Monkfish is expensive, so I didn't buy a huge piece. I did, however, also buy two large scallops with roe attached and a packet of unsmoked bacon.  I took the monkfish and put it in a small baking tray.  I thinly sliced the scallops and layered them over the top of the fish. Then I wrapped it all in rashers of bacon and put the juice of a lemon and a glass of dry white wine in the bottom of the baking tray.  Then I put it at the bottom of the oven and the chips in a second baking tray (with a healthy dollop of vegetable oil scattered over) in the top of the oven which was set to 200d.  When the chips were crispy I swapped the trays over to crisp up the bacon a bit.

The fish and scallops had steamed beautifully inside the bacon and were tender and moist.

I put some of the water the vegetables had steamed in into the bottom of the fishy baking tray and a little more lemon juice, and I thickened it with a little cornflour to form a lemony sauce.

Let me know when you're next coming to dinner - and I'll do it again

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Poppy seed cake and guinea fowl (but not together!)

Those of you who pay very close attention may remember that last year I made an attempt to make hamentashen for Purim. I wasn't altogether delighted with the results. They tasted quite nice but I could only find American recipes, so you ended up with my take on an American variant of an Eastern European pastry.

I decied that for Purim this year I would make a poppy seed cake, rather than poppy seed paste filled hamentashen. Off I went, trawling the online recipes (not absolutely sure quite why I buy cooking books!). And I found this.

I have never caramelised oranges before.  It was quite good fun.  Except that I don't think I caramelised the sugar properly, or enough, before adding the oraneg juice.  In it went - and the sugar instantly turned to toffee!!  Took ages to simmer it back into a liquid state.  And I think I sliced the oranges a bit too thickly.  Next time, I might also remove the peel and just caramelise the orange flesh.

The cake itself was lovely, though.  Not too sweet (I cut the sugar content down a bit). The Builder loved his share.  And the boys in the office are happily munching through their almost healthy Purim cake treat!

In pursuit of my ambition to become a more adventurous eater, I bought a guinea fowl from Chatsworth last weekend. I have never eaten guinea fowl previously, much less cooked it. I took down my Game Book (Clarissa Dickson Wright) from the cooking book shelf - and found guinea fowl conspicuous by its absence. Turned out it was in her Sunday Roast book instead. I don't think she cares for it much.  Undaunted, I looked in other meaty books and on various websites. Eventually I decided to wrap it in bacon, cover it in foil and to bake it in a low oven (about 120d) for a couple of hours, then to remove the foil, crank the oven up and roast it for 30 minutes or so to crisp it up. Which I did on Sunday of this weekend just gone

The recipes all suggest one bird per person.  This seems a bit excessive to me. I could possibly have eaten half a bird, had I been indulging in a meat feast, but certainly not a whole one. And I don't think I had bought a particularly large bird.  We had ours with roast potatoes and a mountain of vegetables and so only had the wing quarter each, with a gravy made with the pan juices.

It was extremely tasty, although I'm not sure that I would have argued had you roasted it for me and told me I was eating a small chicken. It was very chickeny in flavour. The leg quarter may have been a bit stronger, though.  Certainly, when I made stock with the carcass it smelled slightly gamier than a chicken stock.

I took the leg and thigh meat and shredded it and put it in a casserole with finely chopped leek, cabbage, carrots and mushrooms, which I covered with the stock. I then casseroled that for a few hours at about 100d. I could have done it in the slo-cooker, but I was about and I do prefer the texture of oven slow cooked food. I tend to use the slo-cooker when no one is going to be at home. The Builder is happily chomping his way through the result.

Guinea fowl has joined partridge on my list of things I had never eaten before but which I will most definietly eat again!

Those of you who know my feelings on the subject of eating venison may be surprised to learn that I also bought a small amount of stewing venison when I bought the guinea fowl. It's in the freezer waiting for me to have time to ponder an appropriate recipe.  I'll report back!

(I might have another bash at hamentashen next year - can't be absolutely impossible to get hold of an Eastern European recipe, surely?)

A general ketchup

My new Mac Book Pro has arrived!!!  It's *lovely* and shiny and silvery and sleek.  It has a beautifully clear screen and behaves impeccably. It is happily talking to the new printer, which is also lovely and shiny - and which prints beautiful copies in a fraction of the time the last one took. Not that the last one would talk to the Mac. I had to put things onto The Builder's Windows laptop if I wanted to use the printer

It took a bit of time to convince the two Macs to talk to each other. It eventually transpired that this was because there was a dialogue box in the part of the screen on the old one which you can't see, asking me if I really wanted to migrate all my stuff across.  Once I *eventually* found the dialogue box, it all went quite smoothly.

I have also, eventually, backed everything up onto the 1TB external hard disc I bought last August and hadn't ever got around to setting up. There was a hiccough or two trying to get it all set up, but eventually it decided to play.  I think it was being grumpy having been ignored for all those months!

So all is well in the Apple-verse in Tutpon.  Well, apart from the dodgy screen on the old Mac.

We came back from Cambridge on Saturday after a late brunch and after delivering Taffa to her supermarket. We delivered Freyja to her place in Sheffield as well. And we had a lovely, pottering rest-of-the-weekend. We had guinea fowl for dinner yesterday - not something I have ever eaten before, still less cooked.  It was rather nice, although had you served it to me and told me it was just a small chicken, I probably wouldn't have argued with you.  I also made an orange and poppy seed cake. Also rather nice.  I'll write it all up on the food blog, probably tomorrow.

The debate about the first day of spring (summer/autumn/winter) lingers on. But it has to be said that March dawned today bright and shiny and sunny and (by comparison with the last three months) almost warm! The snowdrops are out in the orchard. The hellebores are coming into flower. The birds are singing vigorously. It may not actually be spring yet (and the garden doesn't think it is) - but it's defnitely on its way  :-)

Has anyone seen my keys?  They seem to have vanished.  I last remember having them in the spare room this morning, although I equally remember walking out of the spare room and am *fairly* sure I had them with me.  But neither The Builder nor I can find them now. We have a couple fo spare sets of house keys - but I can't keep the spare office key out of the key press indefinitely!!

Monday, March 01, 2010

Peter's Memorial Service and Wake

Poor Freyja had a right palaver getting from her place to Chesterfield Station on Friday morning.

She got to the bus stop, boarded the bus – and then remembered that she had spent her bus money the previous evening.

She got off the bus and went to the cash point.

She got on a new bus, only to discover that the ticket machine was broken and the driver was hand-writing tickets and was taking *forever*.

There was lots of traffic.

Two babies decided to enter a crying competition.

The bloke sat behind Freyja sighed and tutted and tapped his feet with impatience.

Eventually, finally and at last, Freyja reached the station, bought a ticket and legged it for the train.

Only to discover once she had boarded that the ticket had not boarded with her :-S Fortunately, the train conductor only charged her for a replacement ticket and not the £20 fine for travelling without a ticket.

But eventually, she arrived in Chesterfield, we collected her and off we all trundled to Girton, via lunch at Tabitha and Gareth’s place in Cambridge. We had a remarkably good trip down, and especially so when you consider the difficulty Freyja had just getting from Sheffield to Chesterfield!


Peter’s memorial service was in the church in Girton and it was very well attended. The central part of the church was full and there were even people in the side aisles. Joan and all the children were there, as were Steve and Jill but not, this time, Nic. Also present were all the grandchildren except for Emilie who was on a training course in France which she hopes will lead to a career at sea. But Clement had come, along with his mother Pat. (Emilie and Clement are Andy-the-missing-cousin’s offspring and Pat is his ex-wife. They all live in France, I *think* near Toulouse). Jane, Ruth and Paul and Carol were there. There were lots of people from Churchfield Court, where Peter and Joan have lived for the last 10 or so years. Jerry delivered a lovely eulogy. One of Peter and Joan’s Rotary Scholars, Tom, had come over for the weekend with his wife from The States to deliver a speech. We sang hymns and said prayers and listened to some of Peter’s favourite sacred music. I think he would have been pleased.

Then we all repaired to the church hall for a proper wake, with champagne and wine and orange juice and sandwiches and munchy things and cakes and pastries. We toasted Peter on his way. We mentioned Tony in despatches and wished him a happy birthday (Oooo, said Jerry. Let’s pop a cork for Tony’s birthday. So he did – and champagne went EVERYWHERE!!!). We listened to Delius and admired a powerpoint photo display that James and Dominic had put together. There were balloons. And lots of people milling about and making conversation.

I had a nice chat with Clem in his broken English and my broken French. He’s an apprentice plumber and approaching his final exams. We chatted to Pat and to the cousins. We played with the children – and the children played with the games on my iPhone! It was a really lovely afternoon. I hope Peter thinks that we sent him onwards in appropriate style. Joan went home for a rest shortly before 6. She and the rest of the family were gathering later for dinner and I think she was getting a bit tired. And who can blame her.

We went back to Tabitha and Gareth’s place via Tabitha’s Sainsbury’s, and feasted on various flavoured ravioli and a sauce I made with super-light philli cheese and a tomato pasta sauce.

It transpires that at the Memorial Service and the wake was a cousin of Tony’s. At least, the son of a cousin of Tony’s. And Peter’s, of course. Dave. He had been in regular contact with Peter. I don’t know if he was in regular contact with Tony. But he had noted that it was Tony’s birthday (hard to have missed that piece of information given the champagne splashing about!). He hadn’t realised that there were any Tony Representatives at the do until after we had gone (though he must have been amongst the very last of the guests to leave – we were not hasty in our departure). So he emailed Tony birthday greetings and the comment that he was sorry not to have seen us. Tony emailed him back, copying me in. And I’ve now had an email from the distant cousin. He lives in Chester. Might tie in a visit to meet him and his family with a visit to Ruth and Andy, who also live in Chester and who were also copied into the email conversation.