Monday, 31 December 2012

Back Again

I’m back again, refreshed and ready to blog.

I could probably write about the weather, but I think that most people know that it has not been a typical year. Needless to say, we have had a spot or two of rain, and the wind has occasionally howled over the last 12 months. I’m used to putting on enough gear to explore an active rain-forest just to take the dog for a walk or get a newspaper.

We spent a very enjoyable Xmas at Amy and Harry’s, with lots of good food and conversation, and a quiet New Year is planned here in Brixham. Naomi and Eamon also turned up on Boxing Day, which was great. We didn’t manage to speak to George, but heard that she was OK.

I got a lot of food inspired Presents, including Damson Balsamic Vinegar, and some Cookery books. But the best gift was the Cheese Making Kit, I knew I was getting it but it means that now I can officially start making cheese. I just need a few days clear now and I will be off. I will try some soft cheese first, maybe Haloumi, then progress. I do want to make hard cheese, maybe Cheddar or Jack, but that requires extra kit.

We left a few festive style plants, (Narcissus and Daffs) out when we went to Nottingham, and on our return there was a nice display of flowers, the Christmas cactus is from Jason next door

I’m roasting the Gammon and Turkey crown I had in the Freezer (in case we were here for Xmas) today, and that will keep us supplied with cold cuts for a few days.

But first, I made stuffing, using some of my home made breadcrumbs, onion pickle and mixed herbs.

And I made some Onion gravy from caramelised, chopped pickled onions and chicken stock. That went well with the Pork and Worcester Sauce Sausages from Totnes Good Food Market.

The Gammon needs 2hr 50 minutes at 160, and the Turkey 1hr 40 minutes at 160, so I will start the Gammon off, then put the Turkey in with the veg.

I have, as usual, a list of New Year Resolutions, which I will endeavour to keep as long as possible, and of course if I find myself unable to keep them up, I must not become to despondent, but applaud my efforts.

So in 2013, as far as possible I will

Make more use of the things around me, fruits, berries and flowers.

Develop this blog, and its sister, and make them more of a mixture of things.

Be more adventurous in my cookery, in my bread making and try different wine and cheese recipes.

Actually decorate the house; I brought the paint in 2011.

Write more and try to FINISH a story, instead of leaving them halfway and starting a new one.

Weather permitting; make more use of the garden.


Not too bad a list is it; surely I will be able to get some of that done, especially if my stomach is the beneficiary. I might even be able to fit in a bit of work, if I really have to.

A very pretty sunrise this morning, it’s nice to think that it will be getting earlier every day now.


Anyway, back to the roast, I planned to do it all in one casserole, but there is just too much, I do like to buy a larger joint, and will wait until I can get one, it cooks better, and there is always enough left for several meals, so the overall cost is low. It’s just a case of spotting the offers. Fortunately we have several good local butchers, and there is usually something to be had.

So the Gammon has been scored and put in the dish, a large quantity of Orange juice will keep it moist as it cooks, about half an hour before its done, I will pour honey over it. Any more time than that and it tends to burn.

The Turkey has been placed on a bed of oiled veg, potato, parsnip, swede and shallots. Juices from the meat will flavour them as it all cooks.

And after all the effort,

 There is enough meat for at least 10 more meals.

So it’s now New Year’s Eve and the wind is howling. My back garden fence, which is secured with metal sockets in the ground has moved, I guess it’s because the ground is saturated. I will have to work out some way of holding it up until I can fix it properly.
It only remains to wish you all a very happy and prosperous New Year.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Seasons Greetings

Whatever your beliefs, I wish you the best of the season, and look forward to the return of the sun, even in the midst of the rain.

I am taking a short break, and after the live bloging of our feast last year, someone else is cooking for us this time, it will be great to catch up with family over the next few days.

When I was at sea, we would always toast "Absent Friends" at this time of the year, and as years go by there seem to be more and more of them. I remember them all at this time.

I wish you all the best for 2013, and the new world that awaits us.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The Rush Part 2


Early start this morning, at 6, I was stretching and folding my overnight dough, as usual it was about as runny as golden syrup, and the normal panic hit me. I left it for 2 hours on a couches cloth to settle down and the miracle happened, as it always does.
 By the time I put it into my pre-heated Le Creuset Pot it was behaving itself. 40 minutes later I had the perfect loaf,

just starting to caramelise on top and filling the kitchen with the best smell in the morning.

At the same time, I cut up all the old bread into cubes, which I tossed in Balsamic and Oil. These will be cooked in the now cooling oven for about 10 minutes, and make the best croutons.

Yvonne put her shortbread into paper cones, to give to her friends, and went out, leaving the kitchen to me (Be afraid)

The shortbread mix was made and put in the oven to chill; I will roll and cut it later.
That’s a present for the neighbours sorted.


Next job were the Mince Pies, I have both a Chocolate and a Brandy and Ginger Mincemeat, so will make some of each.
 These will be our Yule offering and feast over the fire. (As long as it doesn’t rain, I would say “if wet in Church Hall,” but as it’s a pagan celebration that may not go down to well)

They were a bit undercooked at first, or so I thought, but as they cooled they improved.


There was far too much pastry, so I made mincemeat parcels with the leftover shortcrust and cheese straws with the puff. Everything has turned out nicely, bur I did have to keep sampling to make sure.

Yvonne has returned with good news, she has found a shop which will sell her beaded jewellery. Watch this space.

Now there is just the Mozzarella to make.

And the Steaks to eat.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

The Rush, Part 1.

I forgot to tell you about the sausages in cranberries recipe from Nigel Slater. Well I quite liked that, but Yvonne was not so keen. I must admit it was a bit sweeter than I expected, but still enjoyable.

I fried the onions for a while,
until soft, and then added the sausages.
After they started to brown I put Cranberry jelly and Fresh Cranberries in
and left it to simmer for 25 minutes.
We had it with couscous the first time. It looked a bit dubious, but was fine.

A usual, I cooked double, meaning just a reheating job Tuesday, because we had loads to do, Yvonne didn’t fancy it again, so as it was just for me, I split the amount and froze half. I will cook potatoes for two and freeze half of them, thus leaving me a meal for work. So for the second meal, instead of the couscous, I’m making garlic and sea salt potatoes.

These are potato slices which are par-boiled then fried in olive oil and garlic paste.
 Then they are arranged in layers in a dish and each layer is sprinkled with sea-salt.
 When the dish is full, the potatoes are pressed into a cake,

I knew the rusty flat-iron would come in handy!
 which is heated in the oven before serving.

Slightly more annoying, I brought some fudge at the Totnes Good Food Market, and now I can’t find it, I’m sure I put it in a bag with the cheese but it’s not there. Both dogs are looking innocent, and I haven’t found the packet (which has happened before) so I don’t know where it is.

Tomorrow is a big day, I have Shortbread to make, plus Mince Pies and Mozzarella Cheese, also a loaf which I have started and will leave to rise overnight. Yvonne did some shortbread today which she will give to friends tomorrow, lucky them.
Yvonnes Butterfly Shortbread.
I found a couple of pieces of Rump Steak in the freezer, so we will eat well tomorrow, a fair reward for a busy day.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Normal service should be resumed as soon as possible.

Where has December gone, I was just looking at my blogger page yesterday, when I realised that I had not posted at all in December. Well I did work a few days, but that doesn’t normally stop me, and I have been a bit more socially active, but there has still been time to type a few words, surely. So this brief update will have to do until I can get myself going.

I haven’t even taken many photographs, and that’s not like me, I normally like to keep a record of all my cooking, but even that’s got left behind. I haven’t stopped making food, although Yvonne has been doing a bit more, I’ve made a few Xmas goodies, Garlic Pickle, and spiced nuts, with the Shortbread and Cheese to do nearer the time. Also Walnut, Shallot and Garlic sourdough (Yum)

And we have been out and about, to see friends, go Xmas shopping, the Cinema etc. etc., which has taken up a lot of time.

The main focus has been on writing, with the novel, I have done 10,000 words this month, so am now a little over half way. I also finished the first draft of my speech for Naomi’s wedding, it needs a bit of work but both her sisters have read it and think it’s OK so far. The speech at Amy’s wedding was well received, so there is a lot of pressure.

And I have a cold, not Flu since I had the jab in October, but just a boring cold and a raging sore throat that I could do without. And this week promises to be busy.

I watched Nigel Slater on Friday, and was taken with his sausages and cranberry recipe, so decided to re-create it on Monday, I do like his style and have had a lot of fun from copying his ideas, and adding my own twists to them. So I thought that I would try this one, with sausages from Totnes Good Food Market, making enough for two days, probably once with couscous, and once with a garlic potato stack.

Also we will have a yule fire outside (if wet we will light a candle in the conservatory) with mulled Elderberry wine and perhaps a mince pie. I found some mincemeat with added chocolate in a well-known discount retailer.

Normal service should be resumed as soon as possible.

Friday, 30 November 2012

A Few Jobs


There were a few jobs that we both needed to do so we set aside Friday for them, with the promise of a good meal to finish.

I had bread to bake, and I wanted to try a spice mixture for coated mixed nuts. Also there was the last of the Rose Petal Wine to rack, and I had to go to town.

So I made my dough, and left it to prove whilst I went into town, I made a white sandwich loaf, and some beetroot and onion focaccia (probably not authentic but who cares).

 Once again I used the oven proving technique that I found on the web; in the present cold weather it takes the uncertainty out of proving dough.

The wine is my last batch for this year, and was made back in October from the second flush of roses that we had in the short Indian summer. I had a taste as I siphoned it (Whoops) and it tasted completely different to the other batches that I made this year, but just as nice. It should be ready in March or so, after another racking and bottling.

The mixed nuts were coated in a mixture of icing sugar, Cajun spices (from an American gumbo mix that Amy brought back from New Orleans) and paprika.

They were cooked at 180 for about 10 minutes and left to cool. When the coating had set, I broke them up into pieces and put them into jars. Yvonne will decorate them for gifts for some lucky people; I’ve made sure that I get some.


The beetroot bread was delicious; we had a ploughman’s style lunch and invited Norma. There was some of my Mozzarella left, and garlic pickle, the bread and fruit. I’ll need to walk the dogs about 10 miles this afternoon now.


Supper tonight is a “Dine for £10” from M&S, Gammon and Mediterranean veg, with Millionaires Shortbread desserts to follow and a nice bottle of wine.

All is not as it Seems

It’s a cold but beautiful day today, after all the rain and wind of the last week. I’ve just walked the dogs around the cliffs and the sea looks like a mirror. The air is so clear, and the bare trees are standing stark against the horizon. A classic late autumn day; with high clouds and a low sun.

I had an interesting job on Tuesday, a large oil tanker to shift from Thurrock to Dagenham, a distance on the river of just over 8 miles.

BUT I had 4 hours to do it in; I had to leave the berth at Thurrock as another ship was due, and had to wait for a ship leaving Dagenham. I could have gone out towards Southend, turned and come back in again, but I knew of a place where the current would be favourable, so decided to wait in the river.
Ready to Leave Thurrock

Before I set off I spoke to the Duty Port Controller and he agreed with my plan. I said to him, “I bet that you will get calls from people saying the ship has a problem, when they see me waiting”

Anyhow it all went brilliantly, I found the spot off Erith, and balanced the ships speed against the current. And we sat there for a while. In the end I wandered up to Dagenham and arrived just as the other ship was leaving.
Coming Alongside at Dagenham

Tugs Pushing
When I got back to the office, sure enough, they had had phone calls from people saying that I was stuck on the mud, or otherwise in trouble. So if anyone saw me on Tuesday, off Morrisons at Erith, it was all planned.

A bonus from that job was a superb lunch of Roast Pork, with Boiled Potato, Gravy and some braised red cabbage, which I had never tried before, as I don’t particularly like the stuff. I was persuaded, and I’m glad that I did, because it was lovely, and unlike any that I had had before either raw in salad or cooked.

I looked online when I got home and found the recipe and it included onion, apple and various spices, I will have to have a go at it.