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Thursday, 31 December 2009

My Day

Well I have completed my two days at work in between Christmas and the New Year and my cold has become worse and I have had to dose myself to try and keep a lid on things. I was supposed to have gone to my dear Mum's tomorrow for New Year's Day tea, but I cannot go becuase of this nasty cold. I do not want to put my Mum at risk of infection of any kind. It was to have been a family tea where my brother and sister in law and my two nephews were also going for tea. OH has the cold and is now worse than I was.

Today therefore I had a lay in - to try and knock this cold into touch, but I am still not clear of it completely. I always tend to get a bad cold around this time of the year so hopefully once this has gone that will be it for the year.

Otherwise it has been a very quiet day, I haven't done too much. I have been catching up on all my favourite blogs and I have been drafting posts here on the computer and trying to get some of the planning for my ideas for the New Year set up and ready to run. I have lots of ideas and enthusiasm we will just have to wait and see whether I manage to get everything done and dusted. I am very determined to do more than ever this year.

Time is a man made thing something that is very fragile and open to disruption by so many things. I am therefore going to treat each project on a "time is of the essence" policy so that I can achieve a lot quite quickly, then if anything unexpected does happen and impinges on the time basis at least I should stand a chance of recovery and catching up with my schedule.

I like to prepare lists as I find that it is very useful and very satisfying to check things off when completed or as a hit list if not.

OH has gone up to watch TV upstairs and to flop his cold is getting him down and at least he can sprawl upstairs which means yet another New Year's Eve where I will see in the New Year and say Goodbye to the old one. Never mind.

Catch up with you all a little later on.

The end of the year but the beginning of something new

There is always a touch of sadness or regret as another year passes it is like saying goodbye to a well known friend or a comfortable pair of shoes knowing that you will never see them again. But this year has brought hardship to many and many different lessons have been learned indvidually and as a mass. Some cannot wait to see the back of this year as it has been a troublesome one, to others it is just another year that has passed.

Although there is a touch of sadness, there is also the new coming in, the new pair of shoes and new situations yet to be discovered reinvigorating our lives and in effect re-birth. In effect change, but with change comes hope, and while the flicker of hope burns anything is achievable and possible.

I hope this year is a good one for you and yours and for everyone generally.

Happy New Year

Just a note to wish you all wherever you may be a HAPPY NEW YEAR and I hope it is a good one for all of you and your families.

Where are the years going to - this past one seems to have gone a little quicker than usual, although in some respects thats not too bad a thing.

Thank you for all your support during the past year, it is much appreciated. Please don't be afraid to say hello as I love to hear from people.

With love and light

Pattypan (aka Tricia)

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Was back to work today for two days in between New Year and Christmas - we finish tomorrow evening until next Monday.

And it has been a cold dark miserable day here in Peterborough. Going to work this morning, on the right hand side of the Crescent Bridge there was still thick ice on the footpath, and that is despite all the rain and thawing that has taken place in between the snow. Its been very cold all day and it is now chucking it down with rain although the weather forecast indicates sleet/snow - I know it is freezing at the moment. I am gladly snug in the house - although I could do with a warming real log/coal fire to warm my soul and to dream over and to warm me through. All the cats are in - they are not keen on the rain or indeed very convinced by the snow - it slows them up and it is funny to see them walking gingerly on it - they don't take much persuading to come on in.

I have a sore throat and the sniffles. OH is adamant that I have been snoring rather prolifically for the past couple of nights! Think he must be dreaming! Well that's my story and I am sticking to it! I am therefore self-medicating (not against snoring) but to try and shift this cold. I have a glass of creme de cassis topped up with hot water (like a hot toddy - but I have been quite generous with the creme de cassis - it usually helps mne shift a cold and is very soothing and warming. I am trying to stop it in its tracks as my mum has invited us for tea on New Year's day and if I have the cold I will not be able to go. Mum has a reduced auto immune system as do I so we tend to steer clear if we have colds etc as they always affect her quite badly.

I have had warmed camembeart for my tea together with my home made onion and garlic relish. We are on the last jar so I will have to make another batch shortly. I have served this up with large artisan style buns. It has gone down very nicely. Easy comfort food and quite honestly after all the rich food from the past few days I don't really want that much to eat

I have spoken to my mum on the phone this evening, she is well and has procured for me another couple of pheasant (which haven't been hung - can't abide them hung - they stink the house out whilst you are cooking them). I am quite looking forward to having pheasant this weekend as haven't had it for a while.

We are quite well stocked up with food at the moment apart from the odd item or so, so for the next few weeks are going start using what is in the freezer and the pantry - running both down so that can re-stock again come spring.

I might make some French Onion soup tomorrow evening to have for tea, topped with toast and melted Gruyere Cheese so that it goes all runny and scrummy. I find soup at this time of year warms you from the inside out and is definitely comfort food. I could also fancy a home made bread and butter pudding to follow. Now that should warm me up without being too heavy on my system.

Its still raining quite heavily the drip drip splat is very depressing at this time of the year and it must be raining hard as can hear it through the double glazing.

Well must get on things to do.

Take care everyone

pattypan.2

Monday, 28 December 2009

Christmas Decorations

I have been very pleased with my attempts at decorating my front room this year. They have turned out better than I hoped. I have a go at things and have a clear picture in my mind's eye as to how I would like things to be but sometimes things go wrong and not quite how I really want them, but hey thats all part of the learning curve. Next time round because have made before they usually come even better.

Unusually this year I have not bought or made any Christmas decorations at all. I usually make some or buy some new ones. Unfortunately for my family I am a bit nuts about Christmas - but then for me it is the most important festival I celebrate during the year as it is about family and extended family and all my efforts throughtout the year usually culminate in the Christmas celebrations. I feel very much the seasons but feel disconnected from the land yet these customs and traditions give us all something to look forward to and give some shape and form and reason to who we are whether it be the Easter Celebrations, or Christmas or Yule. We create our own traditions and customs and we all at the end of the day learn off each other.

During the year I make lots of preserves and freeze stuff and bottle things throughout the year - a portion of whatever I make is usually put up for the Christmas celebrations so that the Chef has the maximum choice of what she wants to cook over this period. I am all for seasonal cooking but during the winter months I like to bring a touch of spring or summer back onto the menu whether that be in the form of eldeflower syrup from which elderflower water ice and elderflower ice cream can be served with meringues with a gooseberry and elderflower compote. Very Yummy.

Anyway, I am getting side-tracked back to the decorations. We had quite a performance locating my Christmas Decorations which are in storage with other items. We obtained as many of the decorations that we could we collected them on the first real day of bad snow and ice and had to make three or four collections as other half did not have much room in the van and the roads were treacherous. Silly as it is I was rather put out as I have a lovely collection of German wooden decorations i.e. nutcrackers, which have music boxes in them as well as wooden candle powered moving nativity decorations of different sizes which look wonderful on the table in the dark. They are powered by the candles. I couldn't locate them - I got stressed as I always have them out - and OH and I ended up having words in the process. In the end I had to do without them, but then again the decorations I did get out held some surprises as I hadn't remembered that I had bought them.

My fascination with Christmas decoration started as a child as a great deal was made of decorating our tree with each precious decoration wrapped up in tissue paper and then reverently bought out each year, then re- wrapped for use in the following year and so on. But it was always the Christmas Fairy/Angel that caught my attention.

Since having my own home I have gone on to collect precious ornaments, such as my Thomas Pacconi Glass Christmas decorations and my china angels, but equally my home made spice balls wooden cut shapes and hand beaded decorations all have their place in my heart and on my tree.

As a little girl I always wanted a Musical Christmas water globe and never acquired one. However I now have quite a collection of these fascinating ornaments which all started with me telling my step-son that it is something that I always wanted and had never acquired.Subsequently he bought me one out of his first wage packet for my Christmas present. That ornament is much cherished. I love music boxes. I just wish I had the house to show all the decorations off to their full potential and all together. But hey, one day as my dear father used to say. Everything has a time and a reason and a season and I am so lucky compared to most. I count my blessings.

I enclose some photos for you to peek at.

My Christmas Angel on top of my tree


My fireplace - please excuse the Gas Fire it doesn't work and is an eyesore and rather ugly.



My tree





Some of my decorations including my hand beaded baubles and other hand made decorations.





Some of my Thomas Pacconi glass baubles


Some of my Music Box Decorations
One of my collection of china winged angel christmas decorations


Some of my Snow Globes


One of my book cases.




Won't be long before they will all have to come down and then after being so colourful it takes some sign to adjust to the lack of decorations. Will probably do this forthcoming Saturday so that OH can take them and put them back into storage.

Catch you all again soon.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Seasons Greetings

Hello everyone sorry have been away for a while but things have been a tad hectic since I last posted and Christmas came and bit me on the bum.

However first things first hope that you have all had a fantastic Christmas and have been able to celebrate the season in the way that you wished to and with those that are dear to you. One must feel for our Armed Forces and their families at this time of year because Christmas really is about family and at the end of the day they are making sure that we can spend time safe with our loved ones.

Ideally I could have done with a couple of days extra in the preparations, but things went a tad pear shaped in the planning and preparation (despite the fact I had already done quite a bit of this during the year) and lack of funds. With only my wage coming in things have been more than a tad tight and I haven't been able to just go and do things like I would normally do. But then I am not alone and I consider myself very lucky.

It has been a very low key Christmas for us, and very quiet, but I think we have appreciated things far more and it has been very reminiscent of Christmas as it used to be celebrated when I was a child. But it has been very pleasant and we have been able to please ourselves, with my mum coming and spending the day with us on Boxing Day and just being able to enjoy simple pleasures like good conversation and company food and being able to spend quality time for a change. Needless to say I am determined things are going to be very different come next Christmas.

I have decided in my infinite wisdom that I will endeavour to make things throughout the year and make as much as I can in advance so that I get to spend more time in finishing off the decorating parcel wrapping etc and being able to enjoy all the fussing and preparations in the run up to Christmas. I have therefore bought myself a large plastic lidded box for the express purpose of popping in (once finished)all those items and projects in readiness for next year's Christmas. The reason I have bought the box is in the past I have made things to give as presents but then when it came to the actual time of giving them I have been unable to locate them because they have been put up in a safe place!

This Christmas I was given the most beautiful hand worked cross stitched Christmas card of a cat in a Christmas hat that my friend Margaret gave to me. I treasure hand made items like this, which although small have taken a lot of time and effort. Things like this need to be planned and made throughout the year as there is a lot of work involved in them and you need the time and space to be able to accomplish these and complete in good time for the giving.


My cousins make the most beautiful hand made paper cards as well as my aunt's. I have quite a few stamps and other decorating bits and bobs myself but so far have not really had time to play with them.


I am hoping to play and experiment in the coming weeks. All those lovely programmes including Kirstie's Christmas, The Victorian Farm Christmas, (and their website for having a go at the various crafts of the time) Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's programmes, Nigella's Christmas, Delia's Classic Christmas etc before Christmas have given me a lot of ideas in readiness for next year. I have also had my diary to hand and have been plotting when to do things for next year. I will be keeping myself to a strict time-table, so that I can take advantage of what is in season and what comes my way.

I like things to look nice - I love beautiful and pretty things. My Mum and one of my auntie's also made home made Christmas cards. Mum had a go at a decoupage card for the first time and has done a really good job of it. Thing's needn't cost a lot just need a little inspiration, time and effort. You would be surprised what you can accomplish given a little time to play.

And giving something of yourself can give others so much pleasure - even if it is only a smile or taking the time to make something for someone other than ourselves.

Take Care

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Butter Shortbread

This is my mum's recipe and the cornflour seems to give it a lighter texture

4oz plain flour
2oz cornflour
2oz caster sugar
4oz butter

Sieve the flour and cornflour together. Add the sugar then rub in the butter. The mixture will be very crumbly to start with but continue rubbing in with your fingers until it clings together in heavy lumps. Or alternatively whizz all the ingredients togetgher in a food processor.

Turn onto a board or working surface that has been lightly floured with either cornflour or ordinary plain flour knead the mixture together lightly. Roll into a circle, or press into a shortbread pan/mould or baking tin. Prick all over the top with a fork mark into portions suitable to the pan you are using (you might choose slices, or wedges. If using the circle flute the edge by pinching and moulding the edge.

Bake in a moderate oven for 30 to 35 minutes until the shortbread is cooked but not browned. Leave on baking tray/pan/mould to cool for about 10 to 12 minutes. Then turn out or lift off the circle with a fish slice and place carefully on a wire rack to cool.

Macaroon Mincemeat Tarts

Now these are absolutely scrummy - they don't last long as the macaroon topping is extremely moorish.

To make the shortcrust pastry for this recipe:

8 oz plain flour
pinch of salt
4 oz fat (butter, margarine or a mixture of margarine and lard or cooking fat)
About three tablespoons of water

Sieve the flour and salt together. Cut the fat into small pieces then rub into the flour using your fingertips to put in as much air as possible to the mix until like fine breadcrumbs. Add the water and bind the mixtgure using a round bladed knife so that the mixture clings and binds together - leaving the sides of the bowl clean. Place on a floured working surface/board and knead lightly until you get a smooth round ball. Roll out the pastry and use as required.
N.B. When a recipe states 4oz shortcrust pastry it means pastry made with 4 oz flour and 2 oz fact. For a sweeter pastry add 1 oz caster sugar.

Macaroon Mincemeat tarts

6oz shortcrust pastry (you can buy ready made pastry if you want but why not have a go and try it yourself)
4 tablespoons mincemeat
2 large egg whites
3 oz caster sugar
3 oz ground almonds
1/2 oz flaked almonds
Few glace cherries quartered

Pre-warm the oven to 190 degrees C; 375 degrees F or Gas Mark 5

Roll the pastry out and cut into 3 inch circles and use to line 10 to 12 patty tins.
Divide the mincemeat between the pastry cases. Whisk the egg whites until they are stiff then fold in the sugar and the ground almonds. Pile the macaroon mixture on top of the mincemeat and sprinkle with the flaked almonds. Place a quartered cherry into the centre of each tart. Bake in a moderately hot oven for about 20 minutes or until the tarts are golden brown.

Makes about 10 to 12

Enjoy

Lemoncello



Ingredients:

8 Unwaxed lemons
1 litre vodka
250g/oz white sugar

Method

Begin by carefully taking the peel off the lemons very thinly do not use any of the white pith as ths is bitter and ruins the flavour.Alternatively use a grater to take off the lemon skin.

Combine with the vodka in a kilner type jar with a lid and leave to stand and infuse for about a month the posh name is to macerate.

Once the flavour has imparted into the vodka add the sugar, stirring or shaking daily until it has completely dissolved.

Strain I use coffee paper filters to take away any sediment, and or peel if in strips, decant into screw top bottles and store in the freezer. Always serve this well chilled.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Christmas Preparations TV

I think we are being spoilt this season with a plethora of lovely programmes. We have had the latest offerings from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, Delia's new Clssic Christmas one off special, Kirsty Allsopp's Christmas which started this evening and I believe is on for three programmes this week. We have the Victorian Christmas Farm starting on the 11 December Jamie Oliver's Christmas all next week. We are being spolt and I am loving it. It looks as though we are going to be having some decent television at long last. Then of course there are the repeats of old Favourites on the Good Food Channel of Nigella's Christmas, Delia's original Christmas programmes etc.

I was particularly taken with the Kirsty Allsopp's Christmas this evening which showed how to do garlands and wreaths she made it look very easy. I have done the Salt Dough thing before but it was a good way of getting the children involved (however I also incorporated wallpaper paste with an anti-fungal into the mix as it stops the bread dough going mouldy. We had a production line going here at one time as I got my step-daughter involved and I had her making presents for friends and family for next to nothing. She had a ball making them and then painting them afterwards. They were then varnished. I am looking forward to the rest of the programmes from Kirsty and from everyone else. Very inspiring. The creative juices are starting to flow - giving me some ideas for decorating the house.

I love to play

Monday, 7 December 2009

Feasting Cheesecake

My Nan always used to make this when I was a youngster. Although I was not too keen on it at first, probably because of the dried fruit in it, but tastes change and I came to love this rich traditional cheesecake. Its a while since we have had it so I thought I would re-acquaint myself with this old favourite. My Nan used to get the curd cheese off of a stall on Lincoln Market, along with the roasted peanuts and other goodies.

Ingredients:

8 oz shortcrust pastry
12 oz soft curd cheese
2 oz softened butter
3 oz caster sugar
2 eggs
2 tablespoons single cream
1 tablespoon brandy
pinch ground mixed spice
2 oz stoned raisins or currants or some of each if you so choose

You need an 8 inch flan tin which needs to be lined with the shortcrust pastry. Prick the base of the pastry case with a fork (this stops the pastry from rising up and distorting the base)[or bake blind by adding baking beans on a piece of foil or greasproof paper) and bake in oven at 350 degrees F/180 degrees C or gas Mark 4 for approximately 20 minutes. Leave to cool

If using the baking beans don't forget to remove once the pastry case is cool.

Beat the curd cheese with the butter and sugar, eggs, cream, brandy and spice until smoooth and there are no solids in the mix. Stir in the dried fruit of your choice.

Put into the pastry case and bake at 325 degrees F/160 degrees C or Gas Mark 3 for approximately 40 minutes.

Serve cold.

[You can also do individual tartlet cases wherein they need only be baked for 10 minutes and when filled with the cheesecake mix 25 minutes.]

Take one Pork Hock

A Pork hock is a relatively cheap way of providing meat for sandwiches during the week. Its something that my family have done for a lot of years. My Mum always did this for us and she always stored the hock in a dish with the stock poured over. It kept the meat better until it was all used up and then the jellied stock as it goes into a thick jelly was used for the basis of home made soups.

Mum still does this and my two nephews are both very keen on Gran's home done ham.

Ingredients

1 ham hock with or without trotter
1 carrot
onion
bay leaf
cloves (stud the onion with a couple)
black pepper
thyme

Traditionally before cooking the ham hock the ham hock has been soaked overnight in a bowl of cold water to remove as much salt as possible.

Then throw away the water put the ham hock into a fresh pan of water bring to the boil and then discard this water. Put into a fresh pan of water with the rest of ingredients and cook until the meat starts to fall off the bone. Decant into a bowl with the stock and leave to cool on a cold shelf in your larder if you have one or on a work top until the liquid has cooled and then put into the fridge. Slice and serve as required.

Simple Brawn

This can be served in sandwiches, as part of a party table, or as part of a salad and/or with toast.

Ingredients:

1 Pork hock with trotter (this is used to form the jelly)
Pepper
6 Sage leaves finely chopped.

Its surprising what you can do with a Pork Hock and this simple brawn is just one way to maximise a very useful ingredient.

Brawn is traditionally made from a pigs head or half a pigs head, but this produces quite a pleasant version and is easier to prepare.

Place the hock in a pan and just cover with cold water, cover the pan and then simmer gently for about 1 1/2 hours or until the meat starts to come away from the bone.

Take the meat off the bone and cut into small pieces and place into a pot or bowl. Keep the cooking liquid to one side.

Season the meat lightly with the salt and pepper and chopped sage.

Put the bones from the meat back into the cooking liquid and carry on simmering until the liquid has reduced by half and is thicker. Strain over the meat stir well and either keep in the one bowl or put into a couple of separate bowls. When cool and just setting stir again and then leave to set.

If a richer flavour is desired cook the meat with a crushed garlic clove, 1 bay leaf and 1 thyme sprig. Remove the herbs from the meat before shredding the meat.

Faggots or as I know it Savoury Ducks

These are very tasty and a useful addition to the festive table. I first came across this at my cousin's wedding. What's more this is relatively economical to make You can form them into balls - makes approximately 8 but I usually put into a small square cake pan and cook then once cool cut into little squares. Then serve as part of a buffet table, or as a pick and take from the fridge or as part of a lunch box. A little of this goes a long way. Alternatively if you choose to make it in the round balls serve two or three of these with a nice rich onion gravy, some mashed potato and vegetable of vegetables of your choice. It is quite an adaptable recipe.

Ingredients

1 1/2lbs pigs liver
6 oz bacon
2 medium onions
7 oz breadcrumbs
3 oz Shredded Suet (Suet if acquired from the Butchers tends to come whole and you
have to grate it yourself)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon fresh basil
Salt and pepper

Mince the liver bacon and inions together and mix with the other ingredients

Form into balls by rolling them in a little flour and then packing closely on a baking tin. If using in squares pressing the mixture into a greased baking pan.

Bake in oven temperature 350 degrees F/180 degrees C or Gas mark 4 for approximately 30 minutes.

Serve with a rich gravy I tend to use onion. Or serve as squares once cooled as pick and come again from the fridge or for buffet table extra.

Enjoy

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Sleepy Sunday

Oh well after my falling asleep/crashing out on the settee last night I spent most of last night tossing and turning - I just could not get comfortable. I got too hot and then as soon as I slung the bedcovers off I got too cold. I haven't had much energy today either I hope I am not going into a bad patch with the arthritis again.

We went to the farm shop this morning to get something for Sunday dinner and ended up with a lovely piece of Gloucester Old Spot pork for Sunday dinner. It was full of flavour and we thoroughly enjoyed the same. I cooked extra so that we can have a quick meal tomorrow night courtesy of the microwave. I always try and cook a piece of pork in the run up to Christmas as I get all the lovely pork dripping for using with roast potatoes and other roast veg over the next few weeks or so. There is a method in my madness.

I also bought a pack of Beef Skirt to make home made potted beef and some chicken livers for inclusion in home made pate as well as the usual suspects of bacon, and sausages for OH. I intend to get some sausagemeat and turkey breasts to make home made seasonal feasting pie as well as some curd cheese to make a feasting cheesecake too and some sausagemeat for home made sausage rolls. I also received a brace of pheasant yesterday which are now safely esconced in the freezer. I love pheasant. Hopefully when I go to the butchers next week they will also have some pigeon breasts and some mixed game bags so that I can do a game pie as well.

Fortunately I have had a few days off this past week and have another week to come before Christmas but I have a lot to do and little time to do it in. I am still wading my way through a very large ironing pile - but I see a light at the end of the tunnell and with a bit of luck will get it all completed by tomorrow.

Well upwards and onwards.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Chestnuts

One of my earliest memories was as a child being brought into Peterborough to do some shopping from Uppingham. All was hustle and bustle , people going about their business scurrying around buying little presents for their loved ones each of them searching for that something a little bit different. The sound of the Sally Army Brass Band playing - and the smell of chestnuts being toasted on a brazier. Today some 48 years later I have been shopping with my mum for her Christmas shopping - everyone is hurrying and scurrying about, looking for those bargains and presents for their loved ones and the Sally Army were playing in the Centre. Things haven't really changed, the spirit of christmas is in the air and there were chestnuts being roasted on a brazier. I wanted to stop and buy some but mum wasn't interested so I didn't indulge. I was carrying her shopping as she now has to have a trolley to get about. She does very well considering.



Roasted Chestnuts have always been a treat for me - having first being introduced to them by my darling father. I wasn't so keen to start with but their toasty smokiness gradually won me over and I now love them to bits. They are an essential ingredient to my Christmas preparations. My Dad would not have hesitated; he would have been straight in there and had some.Its little things like this - precious memories that I remember in the run up to Christmas - time marches on but those passed over are ever utmost in my thoughts especially at this time of year.



Anyway to the Chestnuts , as a result I have bought a net of Chestnuts to roast - I have a special Chestnut roaster for an open fire(which I cannot use here as we do not have an open fire - but its something I aim on acquiring in the future). Equally I have a proper Chestnut pan which is easier to use on the cooker. It has holes in it and distributes the heat evenly and makes the most scrummy roast Chestnuts. They are not difficult to make. I also have some other ideas on what to use them up for like home made marrons glace and a chestnut pudding as well as for a jam which I quite intend having a go at.

Needless to say I was cream crackered when I got in and very unlike me had no energy at all. I fell asleep on the settee.

Oh well upwards and onwards have lots to do so little time to do it in.

Catch you all soon

Meet the Moggies

  • Merlin (approx 18 months)
  • Squeak (approx 2 years)
  • Poppy (approx 16 years)
  • Tyson (approx 17 years)
  • Tinky (official name Clover approx 18 years)