Sunday, 25 December 2011

Xmas Day Part 3

Now that we have had chance to digest the main course, we can proceed with the dessert.  And it’s a traditional one.

 Christmas Pudding, Yum, not home made, but the custard is, and there is also a choice of Brandy Butter, Devon Clotted Cream or Baileys Irish Cream flavoured cream. Or if you ask really nicely, a bit of them all! No wonder we are having a rest between courses.

Well that’s the story of our Christmas lunch, tomorrow Naomi and Eamon will be arriving in the afternoon, no doubt they will be hungry, and I promised them a buffet tea.

I have to make some more bread in the morning, also Mince Pies and Shortbread, to go with the cold meat, salad, cheese and biscuits etc. Another chance to try out my new Apron.

Xmas Day Part 2

 Part 2

Here we go again, when we left things the potatoes were boiling, and the meat was ready to go in the oven.

After the potatoes have boiled for about 5 mins, drain (Reserve the water for gravy etc) and shake them in the saucepan to rough up the edges. Pour into a dish and leave to cool.

I made stuffing from breadcrumbs, dried cranberries and mixed herbs, add some of the potato water and a dash of orange juice to soften and put into an oiled dish ready to warm.

Just time to prepare veg, carrots, peas and broccoli, any left over can be liquidised for a soup base. (Little chance of that though)

 We are eating at 1330, so I put the oven on to warm at 1045, putting the meat in at 1100.

At 1200 the meat has been in for an hour, time to baste it with orange juice, add a bit of honey to the top of the Gammon, recover and put it back in.

Meanwhile put the dry potatoes in and warm the Goose Fat in a separate dish, when it’s hot pour it over the spuds and give them a shake. Put everything back in the oven. Time for a glass of wine.

1230 Take the foil off of the meat and give it 15 minutes more, then check its done and leave it to rest, put the pigs and stuffing in. Return the meat dish to the oven to finish the potato and onion cushion.

1300 Veg on to steam, warm gravy. Carve Meat.

Take Roast Potatoes out


Personally, I prefer the potatoes that were under the meat, infused with the honey, orange juice and general meatiness!

Finally, add potato water and meat juices to the gravy base, heat and thicken.

1315 Dish and enjoy, a bit early but we were getting hungry,

 There will now be another short break whilst we recover, Xmas Pudding will be served later, when there is room!

Xmas Day, Part 1.

Christmas day, and the presents have been opened, dogs walked and fed, and we have called George in Oz, she’s in Darwin waiting for a cyclone? I’d be running in the opposite direction. Just waiting for Amy to phone (She’s at the in-laws), Naomi will be down tomorrow.

Now we are ready for the main event, I’ve been given an apron so I have to christen it today, at least it will wipe clean. I’m a firm believer in wearing as much food as possible; it has to be boiling hot as I acquire it, and preferably some colour that won’t wash out. I also have been given lots of chocolate and some cookery books (Are they trying to tell me something?)

I digress, we have Turkey and Gammon today, with all the trimmings, plus a large amount of pudding and milk based accompaniments.

But first, yesterday I made Apple sauce from the apples I preserved back in Sept, you may remember them as the ones we found overhanging the road near Holne.  Anyhow they had kept well for three months, so after a rinse they were gently cooked with some caster sugar until they just started to break up. A quick stir and there we are.

Peter gave me a big bag of peeled potatoes last night, the people here are so generous, when we couldn’t go to Amy last year they all made sure we were well supplied, I made shortbread for them all, and some flavoured vinegar, also Bailey’s ice cream for Norma and Phillip.

The preparation goes as follows.

Thickly slice some potatoes and line the meat roasting dish with them, boil the rest with parsnips and onions. Whilst they are boiling add sliced onions and cut garlic to the dish. Pour orange juice in to cover the potatoes and place the washed meat on top. Season and cover with foil. I chose a 1kg gammon and a 1.5kg turkey crown, largely because they both take about 2 hours to cook at 180 degrees.

Take some chicken stock; add a dash of Worcestershire sauce and some of the water from the potatoes stir to a thick paste. Then tip in a bit of passata and more potato water to make your gravy base. All it needs to finish off are juices from the meat, and thickening before serving. The potatoes from under the meat will do that.

I have cheated this year and brought ready made pigs-in-blankets (Shock horror embarrassment), I had to go to a shop where I wouldn’t be recognised. But I have made my own custard for the pudding.

Its always a bit of a sad day in a way, I remember all the Christmas days I spent at sea, and all the absent friends, we always used to toast absent friends on the ship, and of course, although I am now home based, I still think of all those working away from home at this time. I do work some Christmas days, but now they are more of an exception, and of course I get to go home at the end of it. The only thing I do miss, is that we would have a Christmas celebration before I went back to my ship (Often in September!) and then have ANOTHER one when I got home.

Don't miss Part 2, coming soon, just as soon as I have finished cooking (and eating).

Thursday, 22 December 2011


Just a quick post today, we got up to greet the sunrise, with a fire and mulled Blackberry Wine, it's a cloudy day here so we didn't actually see the sunrise, but we toasted it anyway, there were birds calling and the air was still, it felt like the right place and time for new beginnings. I hope you all have a great yuletide, and wish you blessings for 2012.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Tis the Season, Part 2

Sorry about the delay in posting, I haven’t been to well, sort of flu like thing, left me feeling like a hangover, but without the good bit first. Consequently all my plans for Yule and cooking have been put out, so now I have to decide whether to try and catch up, or just leave it. Neighbours have been coming round with presents, and I haven’t even started cooking shortbread, I did do some mince pies though, both with filo pastry and puff, but the standard was not quite good enough to give away. I’m sure they won’t go to waste as they taste fine.

The Black cat liked the bread, see facebook, but due to illness I haven’t been down there since and while I must admit to feeling quite flattered that she thinks the bread is good enough to sell in her café I’m not sure if I would want to start supplying them. I came to Devon to relax, not to be faced with having to produce with deadlines etc. Also I don’t have a food hygiene Certificate, nor an “inspected” kitchen, nor Liability Insurance – all of which I have been told I should have. Maybe the effort involved isn’t worth it. Thanks government for supporting small enterprise.  

The Blackberry Balsamic Glaze I made for Christmas presents has gone rock solid and will not come out of the bottles, I had to heat it up and dilute it a bit to get it to behave, still it’s now all tagged and ready to give.

I made some gluten-free choc-chip shortbread for Tracy next door (Coeliac), and it tasted pretty good, I just used Yvonne’s Grandmothers recipe but gluten free flour.

Also some conventional recipe shortbread for Norma and Jean, whose generosity, as usual, has been totally unexpected.

 I checked on the apples I bottled in September, they still look good; I will need them for apple sauce for my honey and orange juice roast Gammon – Eat your heart out George if you are reading this.

The bathroom is officially finished, I took all the masking tape away from the sink plinth and did a final clean up, looks nice though I say it myself and the total cost was a lot less than I expected.

 It’s 30 years since the Penlee Lifeboat was lost trying to rescue crew from the Union Star, to me it’s like yesterday, it’s one of those events when you can remember exactly what you were doing and where you were, there was a programme on BBC about it, and even now it brought a lump to my throat, the courage and skill of the Lifeboat crew defies belief. They never turn back.

Working on the river is always interesting, especially when the weather conditions are not too helpful, and last Thursday was one of those windy, winters’ days that keeps you on your toes. The job was one I have done many times, fit a 32m wide ship in a 33m wide lock, in a 2 knot current with the aid of 2 tugs, but complicated by a 25mph wind from the wrong direction.

 It went well, taking a little longer than usual, the anticipation as always being worse than the job itself. I must have done the job in my head more times than in reality, always trying to keep an escape route, the trouble is, there comes a point when there is no escape route, that’s the time to keep your cool, at least outwardly.

Years ago, when I was Chief Officer, the ship I was on had a collision with another ship, to avoid a long story setting the scene: after doing all we could to avoid it, but seeing that it was inevitable, the Captain turned to me and said “Are we full astern?”, "Yes Captain" I answered, "well" he said, "that’s all we can do, put the kettle on". That was cool behaviour, he may have been worried but it didn’t transmit to anyone else. I have tried to be like him, the last thing you want is a panicking pilot, although I can’t pretend it’s easy sometimes.

Its Yule tomorrow, so we will have a fire and dance naked around it (I made the last bit up), at last the days will start to get longer, and it will soon be spring. Time to start planning next year’s veg planting.

Bright Blessings to all for Yuletide !

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Tis the Season to be Busy

I was reminded today, of the reason I started blogging. It was supposed to jump start my creative writing, which was moribund, after one article accepted for publication but as yet unused.

However, what has happened is that I have written a lot about cooking, and various other minor projects, whilst neglecting the creative writing aspect. This will change as I intend to insert a bit more creative writing and a bit less writing about creating.

But first an update, the bathroom has had the final preparations for the floor, the old floor is up and all the fittings have been sited and holes drilled.

In my quest to make room in the freezer, I found a beef and barley stew, which we will have today, with herb potatoes. I also found some frozen apple puree and made a crumble, adding cinnamon, raisons and dried berries to soak up any juices.

To be a bit radical I made custard with brown sugar, which gave it a better flavour.

I seem to have got involved in a challenge at the Black Cat Café, so have to make some bread, follow at

Tizer has been much better lately, and enjoyed a run around Sharkham this morning; he is resting on the sofa, blending in with his co-ordinating throw.

And here's one of Fliss, in case she gets jealous.

Progress is a wonderful thing, but it makes you realise how different things were, and it also gives you a glimpse of what you thought was only yesterday, and how at the time it all seemed new. I piloted the Sand Falcon on Friday, something I have done many times, and it’s a modern ship, well equipped and always a pleasure to be involved with.

The ship had a radar system that was so far removed from the set up that we travelled the world with in the late 1970’s as to be unrecognisable, and the attitude toward it was so much more professional. Back in the day, and I realise that this will make me seem so old fashioned, it was almost seen as a matter of professional pride to leave the radar off, and use the basics for navigation and collision avoidance. These techniques were drummed into us at college and at sea, and have stood me in good stead over the years. Indeed I remember my first watch as a qualified officer, the captain turned the radar off as we dropped the pilot off Folkestone, turned to me and said”It’s all yours third mate; call me if you have a problem”. Now of course the radar is seen as an indispensable aid. Anyhow the radar on the Sand Falcon has been replaced with a new version, vastly superior and the talk was all of how bad the old one was. And I thought, If only we had had the old one in 1979, and if only it hadn’t been turned off just when it would be useful.

Only one more shift and then I’m off till next year, that’s a good thing as there are lots of things to do, decorate the house, cook stuff and prepare for Naomi and Eamon’s arrival on Boxing Day. After the disappointment of last year, when the weather made a trip to Amy and Harry’s impossible, it will be nice to celebrate with them.

I’m cooking Turkey and Gammon with all the trimmings for the big day, the intention being to have cold meats and salad, tapas etc on Boxing Day. I will also make shortbread, mince pies and ice-cream to ensure that we do not become calorie deficient over the holiday.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Monday Update

Lots to tell today, a bit of cooking, decorating and a medical problem, where to start?


I gave blood last week, usually an unremarkable event, but this time a slight difference.

I was laying on the bed, waiting for the needle, and I could hear two nurses arguing behind my head. I couldn’t see them but it was becoming quite heated. Any how when the nurse appeared with the needle and spoke it was one of the two I had heard. In fact she was red faced and shaking as she approached. I asked her if she was OK and requested that she calm down before she shoved the needle in. It may have not been the best thing to say, but I felt apprehensive. It was slightly more painful than usual (You don’t normally notice) and a bit sore the next day.

A week later I had this, lots of tingling in my hand and could hardly move my elbow.

I phoned the blood service and they told me to go to hospital immediately. I have a haematoma, well there’s a first time for everything and it should go in a week but till then its “rest it but keep it moving”.

Anyhow on to the bathroom, to make it easier I took all the woodwork up to the garage to paint, however I reckoned without the gap at the bottom of the door and a windy day, so my half dried panels were covered with leaves and dust, requiring a clean before carrying on. It gives them a textured finish!

Food wise, on Sunday we had a sort of faux paella if you know what I mean. It’s based on an idea I had after a meal at an Italian restaurant in Nottingham just before Amy’s wedding.

Place a layer of Potato Gnocchi in a dish and just cover with vegetable stock.

Fry chopped onions and peppers with garlic, adding sliced Chorizo and shredded cooked chicken as the onions reduce.

 Heat the oven to 180 degrees and top the gnocchi with the veg/sausage mixture.

Cook for about 30 minutes at which point the liquid will be nearly all absorbed.

Its porridge time here in England, unfortunately I brought the oats that cant be microwaved without industrial cleaning afterwards, so I made some flapjacks, using brown sugar, golden syrup, peanut butter and chopped apricots and prunes. The recipe is pretty generic, but they still tasted good.

As it’s nearly Yule, I was going to make mince pies and shortbread as presents for the neighbours, hunting around for ingredients I found some Chocolate Orange buttons, which sounded interesting, I also brought Double cream for Ice-Cream making.

I have a problem with home made ice cream, it always sets so hard that its difficult to get out of the container, I suppose that I could freeze it in portions but that would require lots of containers and how big is a portion anyway? In my experience it’s always slightly more than you have, or less than you want. Anyhow I have found the answer and I a fit of generosity I will share it with you. ALCOHOL.

I made the ice cream using brown sugar instead of caster, and added a generous amount of Baileys Irish Cream, and the Chocolate Buttons. It set to a semi-hard consistency and is really easy to scoop. Problem solved!

All my Ice Cream in future will have added alcohol to make it easier to serve.

AND I made some bread, soft sandwich loaf and Onion Focaccia.

Today (Monday) my list of jobs is

Paint Bathroom Woodwork in the  garage.

Paint Door frame and door in bathroom.

Heres the job so far, you can see the two purple shades, and the old flooring.

Also the sightthat greeted me when I took the bath panel off!

The hidden area

Make Cottage Pie. No pictures we ate it before I had a chance, anyway I'm sure you can picture it.

Make Mince Pies. I had some shortcrust left over and thought that I ought to practice before Yule

All done, and we managed to get out for the afternoon, brought a couple of ornaments for the Zen bathroom, as soon as the floor is down I can put everything back and it’s finished. The cottage pie and the mince pies came out well and tasted good, I had a bit of pastry left over and made some cheese straws.