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Much ado in March

How things have changed since the beginning of the month. I started by keeping notes of my activities but those are already something of a blur.

March got off to a busy start, building on February's baking (stored in the freezer). I hosted a coffee morning on 7th March in aid of Merchants Quay in order to mark International Women's Day. I asked my guests to bring donations of toiletries and hygiene products for "comfort kits".



My friend Fifi gave me a hand: she borrowed a boiler and mugs and was happy to work quietly in the background, making tea and coffee while I paraded around. The spouse was on standby too, wearing his dinner suit to open the door, receive the donations and direct the guests down to the kitchen.
I was so impressed by the generosity of all the participants, whether they came in to chat and eat cake or whether they dropped their donations at the door and hurried away.

Fifi and I wore matching "artisan" aprons. One of the guests had been …
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Full on in February

What a month it's been! The spouse celebrated a milestone birthday and had surgery five days later. I've continued to bake at a frenetic pace in preparation for an event I'm hosting to mark International Women's Day. I wrote a poem about reading an anthology of diary extracts (The Assassin's Cloak, edited by Irene and Alan Taylor). I re-joined the gym (but haven't been exercising there). I completed two panels of a throw I'm knitting. Oh, what a busy woman I am. Just as well there was an extra day in the month. 

On the savoury front, I made:
a sausage, bacon and onion casserole using venison sausages from our local butcher (recipe from Fiona Beckett's Sausage and Mash). Delicious. 
toad in the hole using sausages with black pudding from the nearby German store (recipe from Bridget Jones' Complete Comfort Food). I love toad in the hole and the batter recipe was glorious! 
vegetable moussaka (also from Complete Comfort Food). Not bad. 
roast pesto …

Jetting about in January

January started off at its usual crawl then got a wiggle on. I didn't do too much out of the culinary ordinary for the first half of the month.  I found a recipe for a marmalade fruit cake that I remembered making years ago. The recipe turned out to be in our old M&S cookery book, bought in 1983. Not an exciting recipe but it was a good way of using up some rather dull shop-bought marmalade. (As an aside, I thought my handful of readers might be interested in the spouse's marmalade venture. He even designed his own jar labels.) 



Later in the month I travelled to North-East England to look after my youngest sibling (I can't remember my earlier pseudonym for her so I'll call her "T Rex" for now). She broke her leg before Christmas and is enduring enforced rest at home. Anyway, my other sister J'Zo gallantly took care of T Rex for ten days then I jetted over for five days. It gave me a great opportunity to try out various recipes: Rick Stein's egg mol…

Making Sure the Days Are Full Enough

It's 5th January and I have been busy in the kitchen. We started the new year with a favourite old recipe - cinnamon duck with redcurrant sauce - from Good Housekeeping (April 1992).  Basically, you sear duck breasts in a pan with a stick of cinnamon, then transfer the breasts to an oven (skin side up) to roast while you make a sauce with onions, thyme, stock, red wine and red currant jelly. A delicious start to the year. 




Yesterday I decided to make soup from one of our cookery books other than The Soup Book. I selected River Cottage Veg Everyday! (Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, 2011, Bloomsbury) but didn't go for a straightforward recipe. In order to make Hugh's Mexican tomato and bean soup, I first had to make roast tomato sauce (1.5kg of tomatoes yielded about 550ml of sauce) and go on the hunt for a tin of black beans. Finding black beans was the hard part. Once I found them, there was no holding me back. The spouse said of the home-made tomato sauce: "Very good. Th…

2019: Another year over ...

I was very busy last month as I prepared for Christmas. My cooking ventures included making three soups from The Soup Book: zuppa di verdure, Brussels sprout soup and kichidi, which I first made in January 2013, December 2010 and November 2011 respectively. I'm not sure what happened to the kichidi when I made it two days ago, but pouring out the water in which I simmered the lentils, rice and ginger was probably not a good idea. 


I spread the Christmas love by making Nigella's and Jamie Oliver's Christmas rocky road. Nigella uses amaretti biscuits, Brazil nuts and glace cherries while Jamie uses popcorn, coconut and stem ginger syrup. Cut and put into bags left over from the older offspring's wedding, both types of rocky road were well received as gifts. A large cake tin full of Nigella's was put to good use at my sister T's house over Christmas. 


One of my colleagues put in a request for a trifle for the office Christmas dinner. I obliged by making Nigella'…

A Flurry of Flapjacks

Since my last post I have made another soup and done a fair amount of baking. The soup recipe was from The Guardian Feast (2 November 2019) and was a hit in this house. Pasta soup with potato and sausage, cheese, leek - what's not to like? 

On the baking front I've made a marmalade ring and date and walnut biscuits (both recipes from Doreen's Country Fare), an apple pie (guided by my M&S cookery book published in 1980), and two types of flapjack (both recipes in my Good Housekeeping Step-by-Step Baking). 

I do like flapjacks and am always very interested in other people's produce. My earliest memories of flapjacks date from my mid-teens when I was still living in England. Butter, brown sugar, oats and golden syrup. How can you go wrong? 

The ones I made last Thursday were for different purposes: ginger flapjacks for the younger offspring's associates and orange flapjacks for the office; and some spares for my nextdoor neighbour. (Spouse and offspring, I don't …

Two Soups in One Week!

Well, what a surprise! I have made two soups in the last week, one from The Soup Book and the other from Riverford Farm Cook Book (Watson and Baxter, 2008). The first soup was a spicy lentil soup I have made twice before and I used up the spice mix I had made for the curried parsnip soup. Today's soup was leek and potato with chicken, bacon and sage. I even made my own chicken stock, something I haven't done for a long time. Into the stock went thyme and a bay leaf from the garden, and the sage in the leek and potato soup was also from the garden. It still pleases me to use herbs I have grown myself. 


Not only did I make soup today, I also made carrot and parsnip compost cookies (Liam Charles, The Guardian), so called because you're supposed to use the entire vegetables, skin and all. I have to admit I wasn't brave enough to do so. 

Any one who knows me knows that I am not a fan of parsnips and yet I have used them twice recently. It must be the spice in the curried pars…