Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Housewives' Monthly Calendar: January's Table of Work


1. Use up any Christmas left-overs at once.

2. As soon as you have welcomed in the New Year, make a close inspection of your wardrobe and linen cupboard, and take advantage of the bargains at the White Sales. If you have children, inspect school kits and replenish where necessary.

3. Pay all club subscriptions which fall due now, also any dog or wireless or other licence.

4. Settle any accounts held over from last year and if you have a balance on the right side, keep it for an emergency.

5. If you have a country home or a town home with a garden, discuss, plan and decide on the flowers and vegetables you want, and order what requires to be sown at once.

6. Replace any shortages in your store cupboard, taking advantage of any cheap offers.

7. If short of Seville orange marmalade, make a supply of ginger marmalade, orange and apple jelly, and apricot jam from dried apricots.

To use up Oddments of Boiled Ham

Allow 2 oz. ham fat or 2 oz. butter to 1 lb. ham. Put both through a mincer with a fine knife. Season to taste with French mustard, and cayenne, and rub through a fine sieve. Pot, and cover with clarified butter or lard. Pot tongue in the same way, allowing 2 or 3 oz. butter to 1 lb. tongue, and flavouring with ground mace as well as cayenne and mustard.

(The Housewives' Monthly Calendar by Elizabeth Craig, 1936 Chapman & Hall, London)

The Housewives' Monthly Calendar: January


BEGIN by planning the family budget for the year. It is easy to do this when your income is fixed. If your budget is likely to fluctuate this year, you must plan it to allow for such an emergency. In brief, you must cut your coat according to your cloth.

The best way to budget is to deduct your income tax then divide your income into eight portions, and allot each portion in this way:­

A. Food and Household Expenses ... ... ... 4 portions
B. Rent ... ... ... ... 1 portion
C. Clothing ... ... ... 1 portion
D. For Saving ... ... ... 1 portion
E. Doctor's and Dentist's Bills,
Insurance and Holiday Expenses,etc. ... ... 1 portion

If the net income is £iooo per year, the money would be allotted in this fashion:
A ... ... ... ... ... £500
B ... ... ... ... ... £125
C ... ... ... ... ... £125
D ... ... ... ... ... £125
E ... ... ... ... ... £125

To discover the sum you must allow for each item in your budget per week, divide each allotment by 52. Weekly expenditure under "Food and Household" should include all purchases of food, drink, cleaning materials, laundry, light, coal or other fuel, wages, household repairs, any minor household replenishing, servants' insurances, or portion thereof, any window­-cleaning payment, etc.

(The Housewives'Monthly Calendar by Elizabeth Craig, 1936 Chapman & Hall London)

Elizabeth Craig

Until a few weeks ago I didn't think I possessed an Elizabeth Craig cookery book. I had heard of her, of course. In her day (1920's and 30's) she was probably the most well known and most published cookery writer. Her output was prodigious. She didn't confine herself to cookery either but wrote on many other subjects connected with homecraft and house-keeping; a pre-war Martha Stewart, and just as inspirational and unattainable for most of her readership I would imagine too. Then I obtained a copy of 'Elizabeth Craig's House-Keeping', a copy of 'The Housewives' Monthly Calendar' and found a copy of 'Economical Cookery' lurking, forgotten on a bookshelf. I'm hooked. Wikipedia has a few bald facts on her life - I would love to know more about her.

So, this year I'll be sharing snippets from 'The Housewives' Monthly Calendar', published in 1936. Each month she provides 'A Table Of Work', a menu suggestion for each day, 'Tea Bread For The Month', 'Table Decorations' and ideas for sandwiches and fillings. No recipes are given. I would imagine that the calendar was designed to be used with her other works, which would provide them if needed. The book is a delight. It would be fun to follow at least some of her suggestions for the month and some of the sandwich fillings sound quite delicious and far more imaginative than anything I have ever come up with. This was obviously a time when sandwiches were taken very seriously indeed.

Christmas Day Review

Did you have a lovely Christmas Day? I do hope so. Ours was delightful, quite the nicest I have spent for many years. The weather was horrid - rain all day, so we were under no obligation whatsoever to go out. Rob and I are both still struggling with residual sickness, so staying in and resting was probably a wise idea. Resting in the sense of playing with, feeding and reading to two very energetic and happy little boys., that is. Virtually no cooking either. A non-traditional Christmas menu has become, well, a tradition here and this year was the least labour intensive yet:

Caramel French Toast and Sausages for breakfast (the sausages and the bake in the oven style french toast prepared the night before - 40 minutes in the oven while the boys ripped open their presents and the sausages popped in to heat up for the last 10 minutes). Delicious and lots of left-overs.

Bacon sandwiches for lunch

Pasta with egg and tomato sauce for the boys and, much later quick roast shoulder of lamb (bought several weeks ago on sale and frozen), crusty bread and minty mayonnaise. The lamb was marinated for 48 hours in lemon juice and garlic and was utterly scrumptious. Roughly pulled apart and stuffed into the rolls and devoured by us sitting on the sofa as we watched a dvd on the lap top.

It was very nice not to have to spend most of the day in the kitchen (thank you sweetheart). No vegetables, I've just noticed that. Oh dear. But lots of oranges and grapes to save us from scurvy. Oh, and Christmas pudding too with brandy butter. Some things are sacrosanct.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Talk At The Christmas Tea-Table (1905)

“JANIE" says she wants to enjoy Christmas, but it seems often such a busy, hurried time. Choosing cards and presents for her friends becomes a burden rather than pleasure, and a great tax on her purse.

Be sensible, Janie. Put aside first exactly what you can afford to spend, including post­ages, for postages mount up considerably, and begin in good time. Then choose sensible things. The shops at this season are often full of useless ornaments; buy something which will last. I find my friends like books better than anything else. Very nice books can he bought for a penny, and are far more useful than cards, which are too often hardly looked at, while for 6d. and 1s. really beautiful presents can be made. I advise you to send for Partridges' list, telling them some of your wants. You could give your aunt one of their Devotional Books Series ; then there are nice text calendars for your brother's rooms, and beautiful books for the children. In fact, 9, Paternoster Row can supply wants suitable to every purse, and no rubbish.

“CLARA”, who keeps a little shop, says she used to give small presents to her customers at Christmas, but competition is so keen and trade has been so bad, that she has had to give it up. Still, she is sorry; she does not like to be thought mean.

It is not meanness, Clara; you must be just before you are generous. Remember you have children to support. I know in villages like yours the custom of giving Christmas boxes to customers still lingers, but in large towns it has been almost, if not altogether, extinguished. The population has increased so rapidly, and competition is so much keener, that tradesmen came to an unanimous conclusion that they couldn't afford it. All the same; you might do something in a quiet way. I think we all ought to try to cheer the heart of some lonely person at Christmastide. Is there no one who has seen better days, who you know is out of the pale of the ordinary charities and doles, whom you might take this opportunity of doing a little kindness to? No one is offended at receiving a present at Christmas­time, be the gift ever so small; it shows kindly thought on the part of the giver - a thing much more prized than the gift itself. Too often people who have seen better days are over­looked. I remember a case of a minister's daughter, whose father being dead, her income was greatly reduced, and she had to live in small rooms. She was well known and respected, and when Christmas came people said to themselves, " Oh, I won't send anything to Miss B; she is sure to receive a number of presents far better than any I could offer: she has so many friends.” But one old lady said, " Well, perhaps she may be offended, but I'd like her to know I thought of her loneliness this Christmas. I've been baking some mince pies, and I shall take her one or two over." This was on Christmas Day morning, and the old lady came back to say that was the only present the minister's daughter had received. Everybody had been thinking that some one else would look after her. So try and do something for some lonely person, Clara, and perhaps your thought will be far more appreciated than if you had sent presents round to all your customers.

"RESTLESS ONE." - You are restless because you are not satisfied with the state of your heart before God. As the year dies away, I guess your conscience is reproaching you for neglected oppor­tunities of drawing nearer to God; of unkind, cutting speeches you have made; of friends you have snubbed, some of them, perhaps, now dead; of your next­door neighbour's gossiping words about you, which you overheard and don't intend to overlook.

Yes, you must overlook them, poor, rest­less heart, or you will not find true rest. Christmas time gives one grand opportunities of forgiving and forgetting. Make it up with her; you cannot recall the past, but you can do better for the future. And that very restlessness about Divine things in itself is not a bad sign - it is far better than not caring at all. That good saint of old, Augustine, said in one of his beautiful prayers: " Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our souls are restless till they find their rest in Thee."

There is a restlessness that is Divine
God sends it to those souls He fain would bless,
Who, weary of the world and all its ways,
Do thirst and hunger after righteousness.

For Thou hast made us for Thyself alone,
And all the souls of men must restless be,
Till, guided by the Spirit of all truth,
They find their true and perfect rest in Thee.

"FANNY" - I have not forgotten my promise to give you some more fireside hints for those little fingers out of your scrap-bag. Needle books are always in request, and are most acceptable Christmas presents to those people who like to see something pretty in their work-basket, yet are always too busy sewing for other folks to dream of making anything pretty for themselves.

Take two pieces of card - the ordinary visiting card answers the purpose very well. Cover each card on one side first, with a scrap of bright-coloured ribbon or satin; this is done by drawing the silk by needlefuls of long thread across the card inside; then cover the inside with a piece of silk or sateen by seaming it to the edge of the satin. When both cards are thus covered, join them together by seaming them at the back with coloured silk; line them with bits of fine white flannel, neatly gimped with scissors round the edges; fill it with a few needles; stitch on two ends of narrow ribbon to tie up; and lo ! you have a pretty needle­ case. A flower or sprig, worked in silk or painted on the outside, greatly improves the appearance. They sell well at bazaars; also the long needle-books, but these require, more care in making. Any strips of wide ribbon for the outside, and scarlet or white flannel for the inside, are suitable; and if a little pincushion is made at the end in bolster shape, it is all the more saleable.

"PROUD MOTHER." Yes. I'm very glad your little Eva is so intelligent, but don't overtax her brain by feats of memory, and if, as you say, she takes note of everything, be very careful what you say before her. Parents should remember that children have ears and are very imitative. Let them hear and see nothing that you would be ashamed of any outsider hearing and seeing. Sometimes one hears such conversations as these:

" Mother, what made you marry father, when it was you that had all the money? "
" Hush, child. What do you mean?''
“Why the other day, mother, when Aunt Maria was here, you said he was poor, and had you known you would have been burdened with so many of his relations you might have thought twice about the matter."
"My dear, we must have been talking of somebody else­ - your Uncle Bob, I expect."
" Oh, no, mother; it was father you were talking of. You said there was a time when he drank too much, and that it was a good thing you moved here, out of the way of tempta­tion - that your money paid for the move – and - "
"Maggie, you must never repeat what you heard – never - ­never."

But all the same, the mother had had a lesson.

"YOUNG MAID" wants to know how to smooth a creased or rumpled ribbon. Lay the ribbon evenly on a clean table or board, and with a very clean sponge damp it all over, missing no part. Next roll it smoothly and tightly on a ruler, or some round piece of wood wider than the ribbon, and let it remain till dry. Afterwards transfer it to a fresh block of wood (which must be perfectly dry), rolling it round that. Wrap it up closely in coarse brown paper (white paper makes marks), and keep it thus till you want to use it. Don't iron it; ironing a ribbon is apt to discolour it, and give it a faded look even when new, besides making it limp.

"EDITH'' - By all means go to the Watch-Night Service on the last day of the old year. It is one of God's ways of calling His people to Him. Only if by going you so knock yourself up as to be unfit to get your old grandmother her early cup of tea next morning, then I think you would show true self-denial by staying away. Your prayer to God in the quiet of your chamber would be far more acceptable in His sight. To all it is a solemn thing, this departure of the old year. We know not what the new' year may bring - what changes, what disappointments - perhaps death itself for some of us. Life is so full of problems, and vexations, and struggles, it seems to many of us so hard to live at all and pay our way. Dear friends of the Tea-table, I would say to you all, Trust in God.

The Heavenly manna fell each day at dawn,
Not over-night.
So when thy trial comes, thou too shalt find
All will be right.

That each reader of " THE FAMILY FRIEND " may have a truly happy Christmas and bright New Year is the earnest wish of

Aunt Flo

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Blah

Well all around the blogsphere I see a hive of busyness and creativity and here on this poor neglected blog .......

Ho hum. We feel as though we are limping out the remainder of the year, full of cold and germs, coughs and sneezes. Visitors at the beginning of the month left a virus as a hostess gift and we have been sick, sick, sick ever since. Nothing serious (for which we thank God), just miserable, self-pity inducing sickness. We are all on the mend now, but the result of all this has been that the grand plans I had for advent went by the board long ago. We lost the advent calendar, lost the book of advent devotions and lost the will to continue. Homeschooling was of the decidedly 'unschooling' variety. Christmas has taken us by surprise. Aren't there usually more days in December? I was sure there was another week to go and here we are with it virtually upon us. I don't think I am alone - I keep eavesdropping on conversations in the shops: people moaning "I'm not ready! I'm not ready". In our little neighbourhood the Christmas spirit seems sadly lacking. The shops are packed, the shoppers frantic - as though the shops were closing for a week or more, instead of 2 days. No one seems happy about it - Christians and non-Christians alike. One lady I overheard in the charity shop was complaining that the supermarket was filled with men ("Just drives me mad: all of them moaning into their mobile phones 'I don't know which one you want!'). There are some comic moments but it is all rather sad.

Chez Baleboosteh, we are tired but not sad at all. Happy in fact - just not feeling terribly Christmassy. Today the weather was too bad to walk to church so we bumbled about the house and dried some garlic. Garlic is part of our Christmas tradition (such as it is). The first year we were here we planted garlic on Christmas Day. This year we peeled, sliced (in the food processor) and filled the dehydrator with approximately 10lbs of garlic. The house smells astonishing. We used the photo tutorial provided by Deliberate Agrarian as a guide. I have no idea how long it will take to dry, but we may be seeing the New Year in wielding a grinder and sieve.

Rob has to work a half day tomorrow (boo hoo), but we will then be able to relax and contemplate the holiday properly. Once the boys are in bed we will put up the tree and wrap their presents. As for the rest of today, well there is homemade fudge cooling in the kitchen that may not last until Christmas Day and we are going to settle down this evening to watch that classic Christmas movie ....... 'While You Were Sleeping'. Yes, I know it should be 'Its A Wonderful Life', but I have to admit that while in general I much prefer classic black and white films, I don't really enjoy this one as much as I perhaps I should. Shocking but true.

Friday, November 02, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

'Homeopathic' Chicken Pie
Cinnamon Apple Spice Tea

The last, minute vestiges of the organic chicken made an appearance tonight, fleetingly, in what was essentially an autumn vegetable pie. Very nice all the same and a pie is just the thing for a chilly night. The rest of it had gone to make 'Chicken Inspired Risotto' yesterday evening. No pudding tonight but we did try some rather delicious Celestial Seasonings tea. This brand is very hard to get hold in the UK, but our local natural health shop managed to track some down. It is always fun to try new teas (a comparatively frugal indulgence at 99p for 10 bags) so I bought this variety together with 'True Blueberry', 'Red Zinger ' and 'Tension Tamer'.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Chicken Flavoured Stir Fry
Hot Chocolate

Chicken flavoured because I would be breaking the Trades Descriptions Act if I called it anything else - there was so little chicken in it. Why the measley portions? It is all down to Hugh Fearnley Wittingstall and his campaign to stop us buying battery chickens in favour of organic, free range ones. We want to join in, we really do, but organic chicken is just beyond our budget at the moment. Unless of course we buy it when it is marked down for quick sale, which is what we did here. It was clear that this was a bird that had never ingested a growth hormone, wee little thing that it was. As my mother would have said: "You could stick it in your ear!" I poached it with some vegetables in a little water - not as delicious as roasting it but you lose less meat to shrinkage that way (and it is less tempting to nibble at - I can't resist roast chicken). I then stripped every bit of usable meat off of the bones, a grisly task. How much did I get: a paltry 375 grams (about 3/4 of a pound). At full price this would have set us back £6.10. We paid £3.29. Still an expensive option. The children ate some tonight, just as it was, I made the stir fry and I will try to squeeze two more dishes out of it. But it really will not go very far. I can't even say that the meat itself had a better flavour than we are used to, although it did make the most delicious stock (I added the bones back to the poaching liquid for extra flavour). Ah well, at least the bird had a better existence than a battery bird, and for that we are glad.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Talk At The Tea-Table V

"MARY" has a somewhat unhappy home, and thinks the burning of the Yuletide logs and other customs at this season of the year a mockery, when there is no real harmony by the fireside.

Whose fault is it, Mary? Ask yourself the question over and over again, and let the Yule log teach you a lesson. That fancied slight, that imaginary wrong, that careless habit, that nagging temper, that hasty word, throw them all on the Yule log, and let them burn away like the dying wood ashes. So shall the sweet music of the chimney-corner once more be yours.

" Aunt Flo " will glad to answer be from time to time any enquiries in this column, if letters are sent to "Aunt Flo," 9, Paternoster Row, London, E.C.
(The Family Friend 1905)

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Talk At The Tea-Table IV

“PEEVISH OLD MAID" - Judging from your letter you have chosen a wrong nom de plume. There are no old, maids nowadays - at least, few of the scandal-loving, bitter-tongued creatures we once associated with the name, and marriage may take place at any age, so do not despair. One of the happiest unions I ever knew was that of a dear old aunt, who married at fifty-four. If you wish to lose your peevishness and keep young, don't be self-centred, but take up some interesting work in which you can show affection and self-denial.

Love is the instinct of every woman's heart; it is a God-given gift, so it is not wrong to feel you wish some one would love you. If, as I guess, you are strug­gling against some hopeless or unrequited attachment, make both a physical and spiritual effort to interest yourself in the lives of those around you - be they man, woman, or child. Rest assured then that, in some form or other, as God sees best, you will be loved and you will be happy. Sunshine will be round you to the end of life.
(The Family Friend 1905)

Talk At The Tea-Table III

"MOTHERLY PRIDE" must take a lesson in moral courage. Don't attempt to do as Mrs. Robinson, who has a private income, independent of her husband, while you have to ask George for every penny. You say you don't like your children to go to Christmas holiday entertainments there without making some return, yet you feel the Robinsons would despise your shabby house and plain way of living. If they did, they would not be worth reckoning as friends; but I think most likely you are mistaken.

Don't attempt an evening party; it is a great expense, meaning meat supper, evening frocks, etc. Ask the Robinson children to meet yours from three to six, have a nice tea with hot cakes, etc., plan a programme of various games beforehand, so that the children are amused all the time, and give some little inexpensive toys or prizes to excite interest. You will find the Robinsons will have enjoyed the party far more than many of the stiff formal ones they go to during the season, and George will not be cross at the outlay.
(The Family Friend 1905)

Talk At The Tea-Table II

“NETTA" is a nursery governess of small means, an orphan, too, with few friends, so has to spend her Christ­mas holiday with her employers, who are not absolutely unkind, but expect her to constantly amuse the children, who have had mumps this Christmas, and been unable to go to any parties. Netta's resources are exhausted, and she often feels lonely, and cross, and irritable.

Poor Netta! It won't improve matters to be cross and irritable. If the mood lasts, you will lose all influence over the children; yours is a sacred trust; you must not tamper with it. Throw yourself heart and soul into making their forced imprisonment lighter, and you will cease to feel lonely.

There are governesses in far worse plight - forced to leave their employer's roof in holiday time, and spend their scanty savings in board and lodging. You may have few friends, but remember you have always Him who hath said, " I will never leave thee nor forsake thee."

Teach your little invalids to think of other sick children. Have they made any scrap-books? Such nice ones can be made of scraps of coloured glazed calico, cut to uniform size, and covered with pictures out of ordinary illustrated papers. Paste these on to the calico, stitch the sheets together, make the cover of stout brown paper, bind it with a strip of colour, and decorate with used Christ­mas cards. The children will delight in cutting out the pictures, and the scrap­books will brighten some hospital or workhouse ward. Another time I will give you some more suggestions.
(The Family Friend 1905)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Talk At The Tea-Table I

(See previous entry for an introduction to Aunt Flo)

TIRED ANNIE has so much to do all day, making the house look trim, sewing for and amusing the children, and bearing with "Jane's" tiresome ways, that when night comes she is hardly able to speak to John. She can only fling herself in an easy chair, feeling intensely sleepy. John is finding his evenings dull, and lately has slipped out - to see a neighbour, whose influence is not altogether good. What must she do?

I'm very sorry for you, Annie; but John must not have dull evenings - and you must be your brightest and best at night - then he will not want to leave his home.

But you must set yourself straight first. What you want is an occasional dose of "rest cure.'' Body and mind are completely over-taxed - try what a whole day in bed (say once in ten days for the present) will do.

The house dusting must go; put Jane on her honour not to waste in the kitchen, give the children some quiet amusement, and recreate yourself while lying still with some wholesome work of fiction by well-known writers (I'm always very fond of George Eliot's books when tired and weary), or a pleasantly written biography.

These will carry you out of yourself, and suggest a fresh line of thought. Get up an hour before John returns, make a careful toilette so that he will have something pleasant to look at. You won't feel at all sleepy now; tell him how much that good rest has refreshed you, and you will find he highly approves.

There is no more depressing sight to a man after a hard day's office-work than a tired, peevish, untidy woman. It isn't fair to the bread-winner; it isn't right. Next month I will give you a hint how some pleasant evenings may be had. Remember, Aunt Flo has had some experience.
(The Family Friend 1905)

Talk At The Tea-Table With Aunt Flo.

Until beginning to read Victorian and Edwardian magazines some years ago, I would have imagined the 'agony aunt' or advice column a modern invention. Surely, Victorian ladies all had a network of 'Titus2' women they could call upon for advice. But it appears not and I would hazard a guess that such columns go back much further in time than the Victorian era too.

In 'The Family Friend' of 1905, there is a delightful example of the genre: 'Talk At The Tea-Table' with 'Aunt Flo'. No biographical details are given for Aunt Flo. Was she a real person or the creation of a number of writers. Both are equally possible but I would like to think that the editor of the 'The Family Friend' would be above such journalistic tricks and that she was the alter ego of one writer. Was the author a man or a woman? A woman I hope, although I have at the back of my mind those stories by PG Wodehouse where the hapless hero is reduced to writing under a feminine pseudonym for 'Peg's Paper' or some such frilly journal to earn a crust. The fact that the name was an assumed one was quite the done thing in those days, especially for a religious paper (for reasons of humility and privacy).

What is intriguing is the way that only the answers to the problems are published and not the original letters themselves. Again this is so common for the period. Advice columns in other periodicals take the same approach, even where the advice sought is of a purely practical nature ('hapless in Hendon seeks a pattern for a crocheted collar'; 'careless in Catford seeks remedy for gravy stains on linen' that sort of thing). This was, I think, obviously for reasons of confidentiality (and people were much more concerned with keeping the private, private then), to avoid the accusations of gossip and also to avoid creating an unhealthy interest in the problems and weaknesses of others. Far better to read the solution offered by a wiser soul and not the intimate details of the person with the problem themselves. Goodness, how times have changed.

So I will be offering up some of Aunt Flo's advice to you. I think that she is a delight and offers far more sensible advice that any of the 'aunts' writing in modern magazines. Certainly her advice is more wholesome. As with all things, eat the fruit and spit out the pips. There is certainly plenty of oddity mixed in with the common sense, but you may judge which is which for yourself (especially when it comes to health advice, household remedies and recipes)! I hope that you think her worth reading.

First Catch Your Fidget ...

Here, much later than promised is the recipe for Cheshire Fidget Pie. We haven't all been prostrate with food poisoning, it is just that real life has been somewhat 'real' this week! It really was quite delicious and as nice cold as hot. I guess that the taste of the pie would change according to the type of apple used. I'm not sure what variety ours were as we picked them up from the roadside as we walked down the hill last week (where they had fallen from a tree, I hasten to add, not someone's shopping basket!). If you didn't want to use bacon you could use minced chicken or potato. Sausage meat would be good too.

Cheshire Fidget Pie

8 oz shortcrust pastry (the original said only 5oz it wasn't enough for the dish I used)
1lb apples, peeled, cored and sliced (the recipe says cooking apples)
8oz onions, sliced
12oz bacon, chopped small
3-4 fl oz stock (I used vegetable stock granules and water)

Preheat oven to Gas 4, 350F, 180C

Make layers in a pie dish of apple, onion and bacon until all is used. Season between the layers with pepper and, if you want, a little salt. Pour over the stock. Cover the pie dish with the pastry. Bake for 2 hours or so. Enjoy.

(Adapted from: The Complete Farmhouse Kitchen Cook Book - Ed. Mary Watts. William Collins Sons & Co Ltd 1985)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Complete Farmhouse Cook Book

Today I rediscovered an old treasure - in the form of a cookery book. Don't you just love it when that happens. You are browsing your shelves, looking for something else entirely and you come across something that makes you exclaim: "How could I have forgotten I had this!"

My 'this' in question is a copy of 'The Complete Farmhouse Kitchen Cook Book', which I have had for at least 20 years and not properly looked at for at least 5, I would say. The book was published to tie in with a television series of the same name, which I dimly remember from childhood. I do know that it was in the days before television cooks became glamorous; the ladies who presented it looked comfortingly like real farmers' wives. I had forgotten until I read the blurb on the back of the book that most of the recipes were actually sent in by farmers' wives around the country. The result is a book that contains some very old and very regional recipes. I wonder whether some are ever cooked anywhere any more. They have wonderful titles: Sussex Heavies (which I think are pronounced as in heaving up a weight rather than 'heavy' as in the weight itself), Lemon Dainty, Shearing Cake, God's Kitchel Cake, How D'You Do Cake, Huffed Chicken.

A great proportion of the recipes embody the very essence of thrift, using produce that would have been easily available to the farmer's wife and making a small amount of meat go a long and satisfying way. One dish that took my eye is baking in the oven now: Cheshire Fidget Pie, made with layers of apple, onion and chopped bacon covered with a pastry crust. Why 'fidget' I wonder? We'll try it later today and I'll post the recipe if it is worth sharing.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Sunday At Home 1865

"The Sunday At Home: A Family Magazine For Sabbath Reading" was published by The Religious Tract Society, of London: a robustly evangelical organisation and extremely influential in its day. The volume I have is for 1865 (the year the American Civil War ended, Lincoln was assassinated and Lister developed antiseptic surgery). Had you been a subscriber, here is what the first week's edition would have brought you (for the princely sum of one penny):

The Forty Acres; Or Dancing The Old Year Out And The New Year In, by the author of No.1, Paradise Row (a serialised story)

A Hymn For The New Year (Tune: Jerusalem The Golden)

A Winter Meditation (Cowper's 'Task' Book VI, The Winter Walk At Noon)

The Old Year And The New: Looking Back And Looking Forward (an exhortation)

Early Christian haunts In The Catacombs of Rome

The Pulpit In The Family: Eben-ezer; or, The Stone of Help (a sermon)

Sabbath Thoughts: Alleluia

Pages For The Young:
Marion, The Ballad Singer (Chapter 1 - The Working Party)
Scripture Enigma
Scripture Character
Questions on Bible Saints

The last three are Bible quizes or riddles but ones which presupposed an astonishing amount of Scriptural knowledge on the part of their young readers - or at least the ability to find the answers in the family Bible. One can imagine the solving of them being a family affair, with much excitement as the solution was pieced together. Rob and I attempted a couple of them. Great fun (and fortunately the solutions are offered in subsequent editions).

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Victorian Sunday Books

I've posted before about how much I love vintage homemaking and recipe books but I'm not sure if I've ever blogged about another great favourite - Victorian Sunday Books. I've made that name up - I'm not really sure what to call them or if antiquarian booksellers have a special name for them (they do for most things). I'm thinking of the kind of book a happy and contented Victorian family would have settled down to read on the Sabbath and in particular the bound volumes of magazines designed for this purpose. They are still relatively easy to find in second hand bookshops and sales and, as they aren't really valuable at all in the financial sense or desirable to any but a small number of dedicated fans, not terribly expensive.

I think they offer a priceless look into the lives of Victorian Christians and a fascinating glimpse of the Church of that time. Of course, like magazines today, they reflect the aspirations of the readership at which they were aimed - or at least the aspirations that the publishers thought they ought to have! And how things have changed - particularly with regard to 'Lord's Day Observance'.

These books were written at a time when the notion that Sunday should be kept as a day apart was widely accepted and put into practise - not just in the public sphere but behind closed doors at home and in one's private life. Certain public activities were virtually impossible on a Sunday: shops were closed, offices and factories silent, fields empty. Recreational travel was difficult and frowned upon (at least in the early Victorian period) as indeed was public recreation of any kind. These restrictions even the non-religious had to put up with. But for Christians across the denominations (and to some extent across the classes too) keeping the Sabbath was a matter of private obligation and joyful sacrifice in one's home. The reading of Scripture, of religious books and improving, morally edifying works was thoroughly in keeping with the Victorian Sunday and something to be shared with the entire family. Hence these delightful volumes.

Over the years I've picked up a number of volumes with titles such as 'The Family Friend', 'The Sunday At Home', 'Words For Hearth And Home' ranging in date from 1865 through to 1905. The early volumes are weighted towards exposition of Scripture, sermons, Bible quizzes, essays on church history and missionary updates (fascinating and poignant accounts which make one long to know what happened to the people mentioned). Later volumes contain more household hints, domestic advice and geographical essays on the wonders of the British Empire ('The Dams of Canada'; 'Australia's Courageous Miners'). All feature a serialised story, fiction but of the improving sort, to keep their readership anticipating next week's instalment. Most have wonderful illustrations.

If you've never come across such volumes, I do encourage you keep a look out. They really are a captivating read. An edifying one too. They all contain a fair share of what to modern eyes does seem quirky and sometimes down right ridiculous, but with it comes stories of bravery and courage, faithfulness to God and sacrifice that should not be forgotten. Plus some very meaty articles on Scripture and church history that would never make a mainstream Christian publication these days. Even the occasional knitting pattern! Reading these books, for me, always makes me consider my own Sabbath practise too; an exercise never wasted.

Over the next few months I want to share some of my favourite excerpts with you. One of the volumes, for example, has an advice page where readers' problems are tackled by the redoubtable 'Aunt Flo'. Now she definitely deserves a wider audience!

Playing Catch Up

Thank you all so much for your sweet comments and good wishes. Things just don't seem to be getting back to normal around here. Or may be this is the new normal! The boys are well - if you discount one bout of 2am vomiting (Sunday night/Monday morning) and complaints of a sore throat (today). They still seem to have the most astonishing amount of energy - and honestly I'm not complaining. I thank God for their good health, knowing that it isn't something to be taken for granted. I'm struggling with migraines and would really value your prayers and wisdom. If any of you suffer from them, do you have any tips for either managing them or managing life with them. One thing I do know, I am almost guaranteed to have one if I've lost my temper, become extremely stressed out or ratty. As if one needed any additional incentive to obey God's word and walk in love.

Autumn is without a doubt my favourite season even though it is tinged with sadness for us here. Although maybe the memories of loss make it so beloved - not all sad memories bring sorrow with them, if that makes any sense. My mothers final illness began in September, six years ago and the landmarks of her last three months still frame the season for me. And this year we marked the first anniversary of our baby Esther's death and all the events leading up to it. Bittersweet memories. The weekend of her death itself, I had the most appalling migraine and cried my cry the night before visiting her grave stone. I had in my mind that the four of us would visit the church yard, lay a posy of flowers and spend a quiet moment, just a moment you understand, of reflection and prayer. Hmm. Sometimes I forget I have two rambunctious little boys. Don't know how that happens. The boys looked on the grave yard (which dates back to the late medieval period) as some sort of stony play kingdom. They hit it at a run, whooping like little savages. Every time we turned around we were peeling one or other of them off of the grave stones which they were attempting to ride like horses or scale like mountains. Isaac insisted on laying the posy on another grave altogether: "No Mummy, this one really!" and as we finally wrested it out of his hands, Elisha emerged from the undergrowth with the remains of a dead wood pigeon in his hands. Which he then attempted to eat or kiss, I'm not quite sure which! The boys then found some lumps of chalk (it rises to the surface of the land around here after a heavy rain) and proceed to wipe them over their faces and hands. How they quite manage to pack so much activity into such a short space of time I have no idea. Wiping tears of laughter from our eyes we decided to call it a day. You cannot be solomn around little boys.

I hasten to add that there wasn't anyone else in the grave yard at the time and that we will be following our visit with (yet another) lesson in graveyard ettiquette. On the way back home Isaac asked us if we thought that baby Esther would have liked the flowers. Would she have smiled, he asked. Yes, my sweetheart, I'm sure of it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Weary Week

Many apologies for the sparse nature of blogging around these parts. It has been a horrible 10 days or so. Rob brought home a nasty little virus that proceeded to wreak its virally havoc throughout the family. It hit Elisha the worst: I was so worried about his breathing that I took him to the doctor. The doctor examined him and promptly called for an ambulance, which bore us off to the hospital blue lights and sirens blazing. Miraculously, we were only at the hospital for seven hours. A cautious doctor wanted to admit him but there were no beds. There was talk of transferring him to another hospital (miles away) but thankfully the demigod they brought down from the paediatrics ward agreed that as his condition had stabilized (thanks to oxygen and steroids) he could go home, provided we promised to call an ambulance if things changed at all. Within 48 hours he was his usual bouncy self, praise God, by which time I had gone down with it!

We are trying to be disciplined and have early nights since there is no guarantee of sleep after midnight - the virus has temporarily altered all our body clocks it seems and we are waking at all sorts of odd hours. We try to be in bed by 9.30pm (Rob and I, that is) but the hour between 9 and 10 must be the fastest hour of the day and bedtime has been sliding towards 11 or 11.30pm. Disastrous!

Monday, September 10, 2007

We'll Go Gathering Nuts In May

Well September actually. Last Monday I decided to take a walk with the boys, down the hill to meet Daddy at bus stop on his way home from work. It isn't a rural walk - 'down the hill' means walking down the side of a major road - but there is always something to see or find (you know the kind of things boys like to pick up: feathers, stones, sticks, unmentionable things). It is quite a little nature corridor, for all the cars screaming past. The road was dug out of some fairly old woodland and the last vestiges of it overhang the side on which we normally walk (our allotments are behind houses on the other side).

As we ambled along, I stopped to pick up the feather that had dropped from Elisha's hat and spied treasure on the grass. Small, very green but unmistakably ... a cobnut. We continued on our way to meet Rob and on the way back made a comprehensive search of the grass verge. The squirrels had gotten there before us and of the 20 or so we collected only 6 or 7 actually had nuts inside them, but I was thrilled. Cobnuts are a variety of hazelnut that grows particularly well in the UK, traditionally in the county of Kent (where we happen to live). I had never seen them growing wild before. We'll mark the spot and remember to come back before the squirrels next year, we told ourselves.

'I have a surprise for you!' Rob told me, a couple of days later on his return from the allotment. He had discovered a cobnut tree growing not far from our plot, in part of the 'common' hedgerow. He only noticed it because he had dropped something and saw the nuts on the grass. Their husks are green so they are hard to spot unless you are up close. He went out the next night with a bucket! We stripped them, but left them in their shells and the tally so far is 6 pounds in weight. Treasure indeed. Nuts are not cheap to buy and properly stored these should last until Christmas - if they get the chance! I haven't found an empty one yet either. Their taste is like a hazel nut but fresh and 'green' if you know what I mean. They will dry out and get more 'nutty' and you can also roast them.

I wish my Mum was here to see them. I remember her telling me many stories about growing up in the East End of London in the 1920's and 30's. She often mentioned that in the summer large numbers of men and women (either unemployed or on the annual factory shutdown) would travel down to the market gardens and farms of Kent to go 'hopping': picking the hops needed for the breweries. She never went herself. Her father considered the work too hard for a young girl and the moral climate in the tent communities that sprung up to house the workers far too lax. Her older brothers went though and brought back souvenirs - enormous 'hopping apples' and cobnuts, both of which were a great treat and never forgotten. At one time Kent 'The Garden Of England', was full of, amongst other things, cobnut orchards or 'plats'. As I've said, the cobnut grows well here and is naturally hardy and pest resistant. You would think there would be a market for them, wouldn't you, but most of our hazelnuts in the shops come from Turkey or even China. It can't be right. 'Our' cobnut tree seems to have been overlooked by other allotment holders and squirrels alike and I wonder how many others are in this area unidentified. Our eyes are peeled.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Hmm, start homeschooling and fall off the blogsphere.

On Monday we had:

Cold Roast Lamb
Gajar Aloo
Chocolate Cake

On Tuesday:

Chicken Mayonnaise Salad
Jacket Potatoes

And tonight:

Hot Chocolate

Monday was a repeat of Saturday because, well, it was just so nice. This time I added some cabbage to the recipe and used more potatoes and carrots. I wanted to have some leftovers for lunch - delicious with an egg on top. The chicken salad on Tuesday was made with some leftover roast chicken, chopped celery, spring onions, carrots and apple plus lots of mayonnaise and some curry powder. As for tonight, I'm afraid that Thursday evening feeling came a day early!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Eccles Cakes
Chocolate biscuits

Um, well, yes... We just weren't hungry tonight. The boys had something slightly nutritious - peanut butter and jellyjam sandwiches and grapes. Rob had the eccles cakes (his favourites and marked down to just 19p for 2 in the supermarket), I had the chocolate biscuits. Lots of hot tea for both of us too.

Much to think about tonight. Tomorrow is Isaac's first 'official' homeschooling day. We have some fun things planned, but Isaac's parting shot on going to bed was: "I don't want to do school at home. I shall stay in bed all day and not get up at all!"

Saturday, September 01, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Cold Roast Lamb
Gajar Aloo
Hot Chocolate

I do so love meals that are as simple as this: cold meat, leftover from yesterday and something interesting on the vegetable front that can pretty much be left to cook by itself. And I love Indian food!

Gajar Aloo (Carrots & Potatoes) is a variation on a recipe from the wonderful Cooking Like Mummyji by Vicky Bhogal. The original is Gajar Aloo Mattar, the mattar being peas, which I did not have, and also contains lots of lovely fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves, unobtainable in these parts. I didn't have any ground gram masala, so used curry powder instead. All these alterations made it far from authentic but the spirit of the book is one of 'adapt and innovate'. If you like Indian food, I highly recommend it. It contains recipes for the sort of food that you would eat if you went to stay with some Punjabi friends for a week, rather than the sort of thing you might eat at a restaurant. It also gives a fascinating insight into the life of the Sikh community in the UK.

Here is the dish I ended up cooking - enough for two greedy people or four as a side dish with other things.

2 onions, chopped
1 fat clove of garlic, chopped
oil to cook them in
1 tsp salt
1 tsp tumeric
1 tsp curry powder
2 inches of fresh ginger, grated
Tomatoes from 1 tin of plum tomatoes, drained and chopped up
As many potatoes and carrots as you want (we used about 6 medium sized potatoes and 10 tiny carrots - potatoes, peeled and diced, carrots sliced)
Butter, to serve

Cook the onions and garlic in the oil until golden. Add salt, tumeric, curry powder and ginger and stir well. Add chopped tomatoes and cook until it looks shiny and the oil begins to separate a bit. Add the potatoes and carrots and stir well to coat. Add 1/4 - 1/2 water, cover and cook until the veg is tender (about 15 mins). Remove lid to evaporate any excess water and stir in a large or small pat of butter as you feel so inclined.

Friday, August 31, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Lemon Roast Lamb
Boiled Potatoes
Hot Chocolate

Potatoes from the allotment (it may have been a bad year for everything else - but we have an amazing number of potatoes), organic carrots from Lidl (and Rob was heartened to find that they were no bigger than the ones we lifted from the pots outside) and a frozen leg of lamb from Iceland (a frozen food store). Rob boned the lamb for me and I marinaded it in a mixture of garlic, olive oil, dried oregano and lots of lemon juice. It turned out very tender and really very nice. A shivery evening here, and failing a good hot pudding, hot chocolate is just what we need.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Frozen Pizza
Blackberries & Russet Apples

Well, it is Thursday. The apples are the first (ever) of our eaters. Very, very nice - and I am not really an apple fan.

For Dinner Tonight:

A day late again ...

Pork Chops with Lemon Sauce
Boiled Potatoes
Green Beans

Nothing fancy - the sauce was just the juices from the pan with some vegetable stock, cream and lemon juice. The chops were from Lidl (of course) as were the frozen green beans, which I highly recommend

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Roast Chicken
Boiled Potatoes
Courgettes & Tomatoes
Homemade Raspberry Ice-Cream

A very simple and easy to prepare dinner. The potatoes were ours, so too the courgettes, tomatoes and raspberries. The chicken was from Lidl, perfectly okay but with, no doubt, a sad provenance. I would like to be able to buy free-range organic but they are hard to come by round here and horribly expensive when you can find one. It is an ongoing guilt inducing dilemma for us. We try to make our meat go as far as possible but that still leaves organic meat about three times as expensive per meal portion as non-organic. Yet maybe with a little creative budgeting I could manage it. I hope so.

For Dinner Tonight:

Or rather last night:

Jacket Potatoes
Leftover Sandwich Fillings
Homemade Raspberry Ice-Cream & Blackberries

A busy day today (it was a Bank Holiday here, so Rob was off - hurrah!). The afternoon was spent blackberrying and elderberry picking in a nearby field, with a picnic under the big oak tree. The place was deserted - I had expected to see lots of people about enjoying the warm day, but I guess most people around here decided to go off in their cars somewhere. Not that I am complaining, it was a beautiful afternoon. We spent the evening bottling blackberries and pickling onions in spiced vinegar. Treasures for the winter.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Mr Wolf's Tea Party

Ever since we got our paws on a copy of Mr. Wolf and the Three Bears , the boys have been agitating for a proper tea party. What better occasion then than a visit from Rob's brother and sister in law and their two little girls. The menu was:

Sandwiches - egg mayonnaise, chicken mayonnaise, cheese and relish, and smoked ham with cream cheese.
Cakes - Chocolate and Banana Bread, Lushious Lemon Squares and Quark Cake with Lemon Icing and Chocolate Raisins.
Grapes, Plums and Chocolate Dipped Bananas
Homemade Raspberry Ice-Cream Cones

The Quark cake was from Lidl, and I just prettied it up with some icing and cholcolate raisins (ick, can't stand them myself). It is most certainly true that sandwiches taste better with the crusts cut off and sliced into little fingers but I am now left with enough crusts to make 3 bread puddings! But much fun was had by all - and there was no need to bake anyone into a pie at the end of the afternoon!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Garlic Chicken
Mashed Potatoes
Green Beans
Grapes and Bananas

At last, a warm and sunny day! A busy one too - shopping at Lidl this morning (almost all of their vegetables were half price today!), then lunch and off on a short bus trip (a visit to a new supermarket and charity shop). Hot and tired, we settled for something simple and quick. I didn't think we had enough sausages to go around, so I added the chicken (just some pieces dusted with some seasoning mix). As it turned out the boys didn't like the sausages - too peppery and they weren't too keen on the chicken either. Ho hum. Mashed potatoes always go down well though.

Friday, August 24, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Lamb Kebab
Vegetable Soup

Rob had the delicious kebab - made by the ever friendly Ali, who runs our local fish and chip/kebab shop. I finished up some vegetable soup I had made this morning. The children had sandwiches and yoghurts, watching a dvd on the computer. Bad, bad Mummy. It was a Beatrix Potter story, though and not something with mutant space aliens or brightly coloured blobs, honest. Can you tell I'm carrying mummy-guilt?
We cleaned out the refrigerator tonight, Rob and I. I wish I had taken a before photograph but it really would not have been pleasant viewing. Threw away an embarrassing amount of rotting veg and various jars of stock that had been mouldering in there for goodness knows how long. Rob washed down the shelves and baskets. We've had a problem for sometime now with water pooling at the bottom of the fridge and then freezing. Tonight we discovered that the drain hole at the back was blocked with a horrid, quivery white substance. No idea what it might be (or might have been). We cleaned it out, fervently hoping it was not some lubricating substance vital to the running of the machine. Now we have a sparkling clean but very empty fridge. Shopping tomorrow!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Chicken and Courgette Stir Fry

The pizza was for Rob, the low carb chicken for me. Well, okay, I had some plums as well. Just too delicious to pass up.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Paddington Bear

Paddington Bear is a great favourite in our household. Both Rob and I are old enough to remember the wonderful television version of the stories, narrated by Sir Michael Hordern (not the dire cartoon version that appeared much later, no, no, no). The books are so much better even than this - but make sure you get the original, unabridged versions (sigh). The audio book CD, read by Stephen Fry, is delightful and just right for long journeys and wet afternoons.

This week The Sunday Telegraph published this interesting interview with Paddington's author, Michael Bond. I do so enjoy reading biographical articles about children's authors, although so often they turn out to be far from jolly individuals. Michael Bond seems a sweetie - but the article is, I think, one for adult eyes. Don't let this put you off his books though. I knew about his Olga da Polga stories but didn't know about his gastronomic detective Monsieur Pamplemousse. An addition for the library wish list, I think.

For Dinner Tonight:

Sweet Corn
Frankfurters with Courgettes and Tomatoes
Jacket Potatoes

You can tell we have never grown sweet corn before - it is such a novelty and we can't eat enough of it. I'm going to try and freeze some tomorrow but freezer space is pretty limited so we'll just have to munch our way through most of it. The courgettes are our own which we are very thankful to have; for a few weeks we thought we would have none at all which would have meant no courgette relish to brighten our winter! The tomatoes are ours too - but they are a sad story. We should be swimming in them by now and off-loading them left, right and centre, but the dreaded blight struck both varieties. We have had a couple of pounds of 'Sungolds' (a cherry) and about 12 'Romas' (plum). Ho hum. Tonight we are being adventurous and bottling plums. We might try pickling some too.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Sweet Corn (lots of it)
Leftover Stew
Homemade Bread

Last night, after a frightening encounter with our set of bathroom scales, I decided to start low-carb eating again. Today my husband brought home the first of our sweet corn and plum harvest. Ah well. I did pass on the bread, so that's a start I guess.

Monday, August 20, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Beef & Vegetable Stew
Green Beans
French Bread

When is something a casserole and when is it a stew? I must google this - I think it is something to do with the kind of pot it is cooked in, or at least it was originally. Casserole sounds more genteel and as there was nothing genteel about this meal, stew it is. I made enough for lovely leftovers tomorrow. The flapjacks were the oaty, not the pancakey, kind, made from my sister's recipe. The panful disappeared in a flash!

Back Again

Hello everyone! I'm hoping to get back to regular blogging after my break. Thank you once again, everyone who sent such kind messages and for all your prayers. Healthwise, I am fine (as is the rest of the family). We have been so comforted by God's Word and the Holy Spirit over this period. We continue to seek His guidance for the future, in all things of course, but especially with regard to our family.

We've had a busy weekend here. Along with the usual activities a weekend brings, I visited a quilt show on Saturday (and was gone for the whole day) and Rob put in a huge amount of work on one of the allotments (stripping out all the dead stuff and failed crops - not a good year this). Plus we are thinking ahead to next month when Isaac starts homeschooling 'officially'. More on all this later, I hope .......

Thursday, August 02, 2007


Thank you so much Laura and everyone else who has been praying for us. It has not been an easy week for us by any means. My trip to the hospital confirmed that we had, indeed, lost our precious baby; when, they could not say. Our hearts have been very heavy coming to terms with the news. Others have written far more eloquently than I ever could about the pain of miscarriage and of the hope that our faith in Christ Jesus affords. I can say this, however, the knowledge that our little one is safely home in heaven, along with our daughter Esther, is an immeasurable comfort.
I'll be back to regular blogging soon: at the moment I'm feeling a bit muddly and just need to concentrate on the 'home essentials'.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Prayers Requested

Last weekend we were thrilled to discover that we were expecting another baby, due in March 2008. This Wednesday I began to bleed and this has continued, increasingly. I have a scan booked for Tuesday morning. We are praying, trusting God and hoping for a miracle, trying not to panic and continuing life as 'normal'. Your prayers would be really appreciated at this time. Bless you.

For Dinner Tonight:

Sweet & Sour Chicken
Homemade Gooseberry Ice-Cream

Frozen ready meals again for us (the boys had ham and/or peanut butter and jellyjam sandwiches, probably the healthier option). A disjointed day: doctor's appointments, trying to rest and a torrential downpour of rain with thunder and lightning to go with it.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Meat Loaf
Baked Beans
Homemade Gooseberry Ice-Cream & Flapjack

The meat loaf recipe, once again, from the ever excellent Tammy's Recipes. I passed on the beans and chips. There is something about this sticky, humid weather that just ruins my appetite - and it's possibly the only circumstance in which you will hear me saying that!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Mediterranean Chicken with Pasta
Chicken in a Honey Mustard Sauce
Homemade Gooseberry Ice-Cream

Not homemade but frozen ready meals again. Today has been a difficult day and dinner didn't even make the edge of my radar screen. All day long the chorus 'We bring a sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord' has been going through my head and the concept of praising and thanking God when you have no inclination to do it, in the midst of difficult circumstances. But oh, the precious practicality of God's Word. When we praise Him in difficult times, as an act of faith in His goodness and obedience, something does truly happen and our spirits are renewed. So the day has ended well. Thank you Lord.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Tiny Tablet Provides Proof For Old Testament

We read about this astonishing find in the Daily Telegraph and my husband has blogged about it here. When I was a young girl one of my cherished ambitions (one among many) was to be a world renowned scholar who would make astonishing discoveries from materials hidden in dusty archives that had been overlooked by others. My fame would lead to me being asked (nay, begged) to take over the directorship of the National Gallery - which I would graciously accept, art history being my passion at the time. Ah, what folly!

I don't know if this 'tiny tablet' was quite discovered in a dusty basement cupboard but it is fun to think that it was and I am certain that most, if not all, scholars, dream of uncovering something that has been overlooked by others. I do so hope that the British Museum will put this tablet on prominent display now that its importance has been recognised.

For Dinner Tonight:

Spaghetti with Beef & Sweet Pepper Sauce
Homemade Gooseberry Ice-Cream

I suspect that this is the sort of dish that would make an Italian throw up his hands in horror. I tend to call any tomato and beef based sauce 'bolognaise' but I guess that some minced beef, fried up quickly with the addition of a bottled sauce doesn't really come anywhere near it! Very nice though and much appreciated by the boys who love a plate of 'worms'. The gooseberry ice-cream was a bit of an experiment, made with a jar of gooseberry jam that didn't really set right and didn't seal either. It is an intriguing taste - not like gooseberries at all - sweet, fruity, slightly sour and a delicate salmon pink colour.

Monday, July 16, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Lemon Chicken & Egg Fried Rice
Pea & Garlic Soup
Black Currant Ice-Cream

Rob had the Lemon Chicken - a frozen ready-meal which he pronounced 'very nice'. I had a very quickly made bowl of soup (frozen peas, boiled up with some garlic, milk and cream, whizzed in the food processor and thickened with some dehydrated potato flakes). I've been craving this all day. It must be the rainy weather. My body thinks it's November.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Pork Sandwiches with Courgette Relish & Mayonnaise
Black Currant Crumble

A very quick and easy supper tonight - we are up to our elbows in raspberry jam! The crumble recipe was from the excellent Nigel Slater book Real Fast Food. I'm on the quest for the perfect crumble and can never seem to get it right. I want the crumble of my childhood memories and sadly my dear Mum is no longer around for me to ask her the recipe. This crumble was most certainly not it but was nonetheless, delicious - very buttery and sweet. However, Nigel Slater must be made of stronger stuff than us because the black currant base was unbelievably tart. Either that or our black currants were of a more sour variety than his. I would double (or even triple) the amount of sugar next time. Black currants are one of the new 'super foods', right, so that makes up for all the sugar and butter, don't you think?

Black Currant Crumble

6oz/175g plain flour
4oz/100g butter plus 1oz/25g extra
2oz/50g sugar plus 2T extra
1lb/450g black currants topped and tailed

Whizz the flour and 4oz butter in the food processor. When they look like breadcrumbs stir in the 50g/1oz sugar. Pile the currants into a deep pie dish, sprinkle over the 2T of sugar and dot with the remaining 25g/1oz butter. Cover the currants with the crumble mixture and bake in a pre-heated oven 200C/400F/ gas mark 6 for 25 minutes until crumble is golden and the fruit is bubbling. Serve hot with cream or thick creamy yoghurt. Serves 4.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Italian Pork Muffins
Homemade Black Currant Ice-Cream

This is a recipe from the menu4moms plan - Italian Pork Hoagies. I substituted English Muffins and some of the leftover lemon dressing (from the other day) for the Italian dressing. Couldn't be easier to put together and cook - just as well as we were in the middle of jam making tonight (gooseberry) and needed something simple. The verdict from my husband: "These are lovely - you will make these again won't you?" Yes, indeed!

Friday, July 13, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Umm, let's start with last night shall we ....

Shanghai Chicken
Sweet & Sour Pork
Noodles with Bean Sprouts & Onions

No, not on the menu4moms plan or anywhere near remotely homemade! My sweet husband rang yesterday afternoon (day 3 of the migraine, ick) to say that he didn't want me to have to cook so would I mind a take-away. Would I mind? I cannot tell you how grateful I am that migraines never remove my appetite (even if they take away my desire to cook)! I know some people who can't even bear the thought of food when they have one, which would indeed be adding insult to injury. I did feel pretty washed out though, so no blog.

Tonight was an odd night. Rob had the day off (hurrah!) and helped a friend move house, I had to go into London in the afternoon and didn't get back until later than expected (feeling like a limp dish rag) and then Rob did some work on a friend's computer - which took up most of the evening (giving me the opportunity to chat and catch up with said friend, which was very nice indeed). The long and the short of it is that dinner didn't happen as planned again: Rob had a frozen ready meal and I had a piece of fish from the fish shop (with some free chips thrown in as a thank you for some of our allotment raspberries!). What is it they say about the best laid plans of mice and men .....?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Santa Fe Beef
Corn Salad
Black Currant Coffee Cake

An entire meal of leftovers! On day 2 of a now 3 day migraine (hence the late post), what could be more glorious than being able to eat but not having to cook! I enjoyed it so much more this time round too. Some things do taste better the next day I think, and of course having it all ready prepared adds to the attraction.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Cooking From Scratch

A few weeks ago someone said to me “Oh I think it’s wonderful how you cook every thing from scratch”. Much as I would have loved to bask in such praise, I had to confess and assure them that I reach for the ready meal and jar of sauce far more than I should. Truth is that some time ago I misplaced my frugal motivation and I’m finding it very hard to get back into the habit of making things from scratch again.

There are a number of things I used to make regularly but no longer do (granola, cakes, biscuits etc) and many more that I would like to try but never have (mayonnaise for example). I’ve been thinking about the whole business of cooking from scratch and how to make it work for me again. So here are some (very) random ideas for kick starting the process:

Think about why you want to cook from scratch: Identify your motivation. Is it to save money (if so do you have a goal)? Is it to broaden your tastebuds or acquire new skills? Is it to provide a healthier alternative for your family? It is important to know your motivation so that you can picture it and keep it in mind to inspire you when you are discouraged or tired and want to give up.

Look at your cupboard shelves: Look at the foods you normally buy, that your family likes. Is it possible to make healthier homemade varieties of these items? Or less expensive versions? Start with the things you routinely buy and make a list. No point in making granola if you never buy it because nobody likes it (though you may want to tempt them with it further down the line).

Look at the supermarket shelves or at the Farmers' Market. Are there things that you would like to buy but can’t because they so expensive, or things that you won’t buy because they are stuffed with nasties but that you would quite like to eat if they weren’t? Make a list.

Look at your cookery books and online for recipes and ideas. Much as I love recipe books (and I really do – vintage ones are especially helpful in this venture) the internet is an incredible treasure trove and you can find a recipe for practically every product or dish you might want to copy at home.

Think about your circumstances and what will work best for you. Does the recipe require equipment you don’t have and can’t borrow or improvise? Does it require time and a level of attention duing the process that you just can’t spare right now, or ingredients that just aren’t readily available where you live.

If you are starting cooking from scratch practically from scratch, start with one thing at a time. If you are starting again after a period of ‘backsliding’, go easy too. Trying to introduce a lot of new things to most families all at once is a recipe for disaster and many tears on the part of the one doing the cooking.

Repeat that ‘one thing’ as often as your family and your budget can stand it until you get a result you are all happy with. You first loaf of bread may not be up to much (mine wasn’t) but your tenth will be (unless of course your yeast is out of date – please don’t ask me how I know this). Some things it must be said are so very easy to make that you can get good results first time and you will wonder why anyone would ever want to buy it ready made. But be realistic, especially if you are wanting to do this for reasons of your budget. Not everything made from scratch is cheaper than the ‘factory made’ article, especially if you are skilled at using coupons or spotting great mark downs. It almost always tastes better and is better for you, but when you are really on a bare-bones budget it just may not be possible, especially if you would have to buy a lot of new ingredients for it.

Keep your perspective. This is only food. Home making is not a competitive sport. I have never come across anyone in the blogosphere who makes it that for others but I do sometimes make it that for myself. When this happens we can become easily discouraged, depressed and bitter, bringing no joy to the Lord or our families and certainly not to ourselves. You are not a bad mother if you buy your child a birthday cake from the store and serve up sandwiches on shop bought bread. Cooking from scratch is not a spiritual virtue. It is not wrong to want to do more than you are doing and to want to do the best you possibly can for your family (however you may see it) but if you were able to do it all at once and do it perfectly, you would probably be doing it already.

For me, cooking from scratch – whether food items or whole meals – is a very enjoyable and creative part of my role as a wife and mother. I like learning new skills and not being dependent on going to the store for things. Some of the things I make from scratch we just can’t buy in the local shops and we can’t afford them in the shops that do sell them. I’d like to think that my family is healthier because of it (although I think that is really down to God’s goodness). But anyone who reads this blog will see from the ‘For Dinner Tonight’ posts just how often tiredness, boredom and plain old bad organisation has me reaching for the microwave. I’m not in a position to pontificate on this subject at all but I do need to remind myself of just how well cooking from scratch works for me. I hope it will work for you too.

For lots of splendid tips and advice visit

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Santa Fe Beef
Homemade Bread
Corn Salad
Rhubarb Yoghurt

Hmm, not so sure about this one. The Santa Fe Beef was unusual, nice but unusual. Rob said it was 'delicious', but I suspect he was practising the gift of encouragement. It was supposed to be chicken but I had some stewing steak in the freezer already and thought I would use it up. To the beef was added sweet corn, kidney beans, salsa and, towards the end of cooking, cream cheese. I worried that there might not be enough liquid and that it might dry out but it turned out just fine. The menu plan said to serve with rice, tortillas and crusty bread but I decided that was one carbohydrate too far and settled for the rice and bread! The corn salad (sweet corn, red pepper, lemon dressing and basil - which I forgot to add) was okay but the dressing was somewhat sharp. Sweet corn in the main dish and sweet corn salad? Well, we like sweet corn but ... The rhubarb was left over from cordial making at the weekend and I added it to homemade yoghurt with, I must confess, lots of sugar. The boys fell upon this with delight but treated the main course with great suspicion! Never mind, the most wonderful thing is that it made a huge amount and we can have it for dinner tomorrow. Bliss!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Our Weekend

We spent a very happy and contented 'home centred' weekend, but I have to say it did feel like a whirlwind of activity. Rob was not joking when he said that the black currants were like marbles! I have never seen such a harvest of them. They must really like all the rain we have been having. All the berries seem to in fact (with the exception of strawberries which were very poor this year). We are still holding our breath concerning the tomatoes, courgettes and garlic. But this weekend, for the first time in ages, it seems, the weather was fine and Rob took advantage of it to do some major picking.

Of course, once picked they all have to be processed and what to do for the best? Both our freezers (half of a fridge freezer and a similar sized upright one) were already short on space. Oh for the massive chest freezer my parents had! So we changed our plans. Instead of open freezing and bagging the black currants we stewed them down and pureed them. The puree we froze in 2 cup measures in plastic containers (Chinese take-away containers actually), popping out the blocks when frozen to store in plastic bags. The theory is that this way we can use the puree for ice-cream, yoghurt or for jam making. We make a cross between a jelly and a jam with most of our fruit - avoiding the pippy-ness of jam but getting a higher yield than just using the juice. The boys call it, not surprisingly, 'Jelly Jam'. This, on and off, took most of the weekend, together with making black currant cordial and, a new one for us, rhubarb and ginger cordial (I found some of last year's rhubarb in the freezer and thought I'd use it up to save space).

Add to this hoovering, washing and hanging on the line, a shopping trip to Lidl, playing with the boys, visits to the park, a trip to the recycling bank and the charity shops, cooking, endless washing up and all the usual Sabbath day pursuits ... we are exhausted and would dearly like another weekend, right now, to get over the last one!

For Dinner Tonight:

Roast Pork
Baked Potatoes
Courgette & Tomato Sauce
Banana Cake with Lemon Icing

My first day following the Menu4Moms menu (with slight alterations!). The pork was delicious and much appreciated by my sweet husband who likes nothing better than a slab of roasted meat. I added more garlic to the marinade together with some lemon juice, olive oil and coriander seed. The side dish was supposed to be Summer Squash Saute and I had intended to substitute courgettes, until I saw the price of them! So, from the freezer, I dug out the last of the courgette soup base I had made last year, added some frozen tomato passata and cooked it down with some onions and garlic. The banana cake was by special request of Isaac and he did a very good job helping me with it. It was so nice to have a hot meal, planned and ready to eat when Rob got home (just missing by a whisker the thunder storm that broke out of a clear sky as he arrived).

Sunday, July 08, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Couscous with Chicken & Vegetables
French Bread
Black Currant Coffee Cake
Cantaloupe Melon

There isn't much you can do with 3 little chicken thighs, left over from the night before, but this stretched them nicely. I fried some onion and mushrooms, added garlic, cinnamon and tumeric and then the chicken, stripped from the bone. I added the couscous with peas (another leftover) plus a fresh batch to bulk it out, salt and pepper. It was good, especially with some garlic and chilli sauce on the side. The coffee cake was an adaptation of this recipe from the lovely Pleasant View School House. I've made it before and it is very nice indeed. I used melted butter instead of oil this time, a cup of black currants and white flour as I was out of wholemeal. It made a very tender, crumbly cake and was wolfed down by the hungry boys. I'm trying to introduce the tastes of different fruits to the boys as often as possible in things like cakes and ice-creams and yoghurts (i.e. things I know they will eat). Isaac, in particular, is wary as can be about new foods but I'm hoping that this way he will not only discover new things that he likes to eat but also get used to the whole idea of trying new things in general.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Garlic Chicken
Couscous & Peas
Homemade Raspberry Ice-Cream
Cantaloupe Melon

An exhausting, but fun day. The garlic chicken was chicken thighs coated with 'Crispy Garlic Chicken' coating which we bought from the Chinese supermarket (an amazing place) some time ago. I unearthed it at the back of the cupboard while I was looking for something else! It was going to be baked potatoes but I opted for couscous instead because it is just so quick. The melon was half price at Lidl - such a bargain. I adore melon and could eat a whole one of any variety. One of my abiding memories of living in east London is the sight of dozens and dozens of watermelons piled up outside the Greek and Turkish shops. They looked quite unreal in their hugeness!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Menu Planning

Do you make a weekly menu of meals? I have done several times in the past and when I have I’ve always been encouraged by how well it works and how much easier it is when you have one. Then I forget that such a thing exists and just wing it for a while, and we end up eating pizza and ready meals because I haven’t planned anything and now haven’t the energy or the inspiration. It’s a self discipline thing, or rather the lack of it I guess.

But today I jumped back on the wagon and made a menu for the week. All this week I have been trying to rethink the organisation and running of our home. My sweet husband makes no demands in this area and I am aware of how my tendency to procrastinate etc has led to our current state of chaos. To put it plainly, I’ve been lazy. With God’s help, that will change and here is a small start.

While I was looking for some homeschool resources last weekend, I came across this splendid service . If you sign up for their service they will send you a 5 day dinner menu each week plus recipes and a grocery list to go with it – completely free! I’ve taken the menu for the 9th – 13th and adapted it a little bit to suit what I needed to use up from the freezer. I also had to make a couple of budgetary changes – food in the USA tends, I think, to be a little cheaper for most items and certainly for meat. I feel so excited about trying it and even if it doesn’t work out I think it has definitely encouraged me to start menu planning again. Off to Lidl tomorrow, list in hand!

For Dinner Tonight:

Homemade Black Currant Ice-Cream & Raspberries

Hurrah for frozen pizza! Especially on a Friday night. Tonight is the first day in ages that it hasn't rained. Hurrah again! Rob is busy down the allotment as I write, picking black currants and raspberries and trying to rescue our poor drowned tomatoes. Have a blessed weekend!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Meat Loaf
New Potatoes
Homemade Black Currant Ice-Cream

I had intended never to attempt meat loaf again. Previous disastrous attempts (too salty, too dry, too bready) had scarred me and I had begun to wonder if you actually had to be American to make a decent meat loaf. Then I found this recipe on the ever wonderful Tammy's Recipes. It was delicious, my faith is restored and I intend to make it again and again.

Universal Martha

Imagine if you will, a small village in rural Wales. Actually, village is probably too grand a term; more of a hamlet, just a road with houses either side. There is a pub (naturally), a church and a post office/general store. Nothing more, not even a craft centre or pottery (this is possibly the only place in Wales where there isn't one).

In some villages in Wales the post office/general store is quite a thriving concern, having diversified from the normal run of the mill foods to providing organic vegetables, locally sourced foods and other delightful goodies to the discerning customer. Not so this little shop. It is a sad little shop and in sore need of a business makeover. You will not find produce from the local farm here or even local honey. In fact you will not find much of anything of any description on the shelves. The day we visited it reminded me of what you might find in a shop on the last day of its closing down sale, just before they sold off the shelves themselves. We were holidaying nearby in a little cabin in the woods, belonging to Rob's parents, and had braved the rain to venture out in search of bacon, milk and a newspaper. Then as we paid for our few purchases, I saw it, glowing out from the dismal news' stand and you could have knocked me over with the proverbial feather.

Yes a copy of Martha Stewart's Living Magazine and not an edition that had been languishing there for months or years but that very month's current edition. Utterly astonishing!

Now, normally if I want to buy this magazine I have to make a special trip up to London, to Borders in the Charing Cross Road. It is just not that widely available here, scarce in fact. And yet here it was in this forlorn little store, with nothing to speak of on the shelves, in a little Welsh hamlet in the middle of nowhere. Proof indeed that Martha Stewart is a global phenomenon. I gave thanks to God and paid for it quick, praying that I wasn't depriving a regular customer of their copy. Then we went on our way, marvelling at such unexpected bounty and, it being a holiday, I devoured the magazine at one sitting. Yum!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy Fourth Of July!

Wishing anyone who is celebrating today a very happy holiday filled with family, friends and good things!

For Dinner Tonight:

Tuna Fish Steaks
Green Salad
Chip Shop Chips
Homemade Black Currant Ice-Cream

Fresh tuna is usually way too expensive for us to buy (in fact I’ve only ever had it once before) but these frozen steaks were on special offer at Lidl: 2 for 99p. They were okay but I think I over cooked them (a bit tough). The green salad was from lettuce Rob grows in old milk cartons outside our window. The tomatoes were from the supermarket – I can’t wait until we have our own, although if the rain keeps up we may not get any. The black currants in the ice-cream were the last of last year’s frozen harvest. We await the onslaught of this years crop. A little black currant goes a long way in my book. Rob tells me the bushes are groaning with them and that they are as big as marbles. Oh dear.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Spaghetti Puttanesca
Raspberries, Bananas & Cream

A migraine and the appalling weather meant a quick change of plans tonight. I had been going to Southwark Cathedral to attend a friend's commissioning as a pastoral assistant and we were going to get by with sandwiches or a pizza. But it was not to be. So I used a jar of sauce (Lloyd Grossman brand on special offer at Lidl - very nice and 'un-processed' tasting) and added some minced beef and mushrooms for extra protein and bulk. As I write, there is thunder, lightning and teeming rain outside. A good night to be home - as it always is.

Monday, July 02, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Pork Chops
Rice With Red Onion & Mushrooms
Homemade Raspberry & Vanilla Ice-Cream

Quick and easy: pork chops (marked down for quick sale), left over rice with lots of red onion and mushrooms added. Should have been a green salad too but I forgot it was in the fridge. The last scrapings of two batches of ice-cream mixed together.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Vegetable Samosas
Vegetable Pakoras
Homemade Yoghurt & Mint Sauce
Sweet Corn
Raspberries and Cream

Sweet husband defrosted both our freezers today and although both of them are only small models it is still quite a job (especially with 2 little helpers!). We discovered some ancient relics, some edible others not so. This meal used up some of the edible ones. We have a bumper crop of blackcurrants on the way!

Edited to add the sweet corn. Not our own yet but frozen 'mini corn cobs' from the supermarket and so delicious that we cooked some more to eat just on their own.

God Is Working His Purpose Out

God is working His purpose out
As year succeeds to year;
God is working his purpose out,
And the time is drawing near;
Nearer and nearer draws the time,
The time that shall surely be,
When the earth shall be filled
With the glory of God
As the waters cover the sea.

From utmost east to utmost west,
Where’er man’s foot hath trod,
By the mouth of many messengers
Goes forth the voice of God:
“Give ear to Me, ye continents,
Ye isles, give ear to Me,
”That the earth may be filled
With the glory of God
As the waters cover the sea.

What can we do to work God’s work,
To prosper and increase
The brotherhood of all mankind,
The reign of the Prince of Peace?
What can we do to hasten the time,
The time that shall surely be,
When the earth shall be filled
With the glory of God
As the waters cover the sea.

March we forth in the strength of God,
With the banner of Christ unfurled,
That the light of the glorious Gospel of truth
May shine throughout the world;
Fight we the fight with sorrow and sin
To set their captives free,
That the earth may be filled
With the glory of God
As the waters cover the sea.

All we can do is nothing worth
Unless God blesses the deed;
Vainly we hope for the harvest-tide
Till God gives life to the seed;
Yet near and nearer draws the time,
The time that shall surely be,
When the earth shall be filled
With the glory of God
As the waters cover the sea.

Arthur C Ainger 1894

For more wonderful hymns visit

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Thrifting Fun!

There was a brief half hour or so today when the teeming rain slackened off to a drizzle. Seizing the opportunity for some fresh air, we bundled the children up and ventured out to the shops. We are so blessed to have a high street that is not only interesting to look around but useful in terms of the practical everyday sort of shops it offers. And charity shops, six of them incredibly enough. One has recently opened opposite the supermarket we visit, making trips there much more fun and today we scooped up these treasures:

The Jungle Book and Other Stories by Rudyard Kipling (unabridged too!)
Mr Little's Noisy Train by Richard Fowler
The Valley Palate & Second Helpings From The Valley Palate by The Long Valley Area Junior Women's Club

The recipe books are a wonderful find. How did recipe books from Hackettstown and Mt Olive New Jersey come to be in a charity shop in Kent? I want to know the story! They are beautifully bound and presented with old photographs and little articles about the history of the local area too. I googled the Long Valley Women's Club and they certainly seem a very active group of ladies.

Isaac picked up the train book and it really is a delight. It is a 'lift the flap' book with, miraculously all the flaps intact! It has wonderful illustrations of the inside of the engine and train with all the details labelled, to the great joy of my train obsessed little boy (Rob was pretty impressed too!). The back cover gives you an idea:

We couldn't leave without this addition to our family:

Elisha picked him up and could not be parted from him. We rarely find beautiful vintage treasures in our local charity shops but we have picked up some wonderful, useful, moneysaving items. Our wardrobes would be much the emptier without them. And thrifting is such fun. I do like that word 'thrifting' although sadly, as we call them 'charity' and not 'thrift' shops the use of it is usually met with a blank stare!

For Dinner Tonight:

Lamb Balti Bhuna
Lamb Korai
Homemade Vanilla Ice-Cream & Raspberries

My sweet husband is so easy going and accommodating when it comes to food. As I have said before, this is a legacy of a frugal and resourceful mother and missionary training (not to mention his good nature). So when tonight I told him what was for dinner (archaeological treasures from the back of the freezer) and saw a wistful glint in his eye I asked him what he would really, really like to eat. This was the answer. The weather here has been hideous, more like winter than summer, and he said he felt the need for large chunks of red meat in spicy sauces. We have a very nice Indian take-away a few doors from us and, praise God, this week we are able to indulge. I cooked the rice myself and I always feel so bad when placing the order and they ask if we want rice. Making a living running a restaurant is not the easiest of things and I know that there is more of a profit proportionally from side dishes but we have a budget of sorts for this kind of treat and buying the rice would take it over the limit. Ho hum. I was happy not to cook. We had spent the day 'sorting stuff' - not organising, that would be too grand a description for it! We both felt exhausted with very little to show for it on the surface so it was a lovely treat to have dinner made for me.

Friday, June 29, 2007

For Dinner Tonight:

Roast Chicken
Green Salad & Cherry Tomatoes
Ice-Cream Sundaes

We spent a very happy day today with a dear home-schooling friend and her 3 girls who are visiting from the USA. We haven't seen each other for about 2 years so there was much to catch up on. A simple meal (thanks to chips from our local fish and chip shop) - who wants to be fussing in the kitchen when there's 2 years worth of news to share? The ice-cream sundaes were made with mini meringues, homemade vanilla ice-cream, raspberries and chocolate dipped strawberries. I'd never dipped strawberries in chocolate before - my goodness they could become quite addictive!