Tuesday, 22 April 2008


Naomi says that I didn't share the recipe for dumplings. I didn't actually make the dumpling recipe that went along with the beef and ale stew. It was a bit convoluted. Instead, I used the Edna Staebler recipe for fluffy dumplings and it is as follows:

Featherweight Dumplings

2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
milk to make a thick dough

Sift the dry ingredients and add only enough milk to make a stiff dough - not at all runny. Drop tablespoons of the thick batter into boiling broth, cover tightly, cook gently, and don't lift the lid for 10 minutes. Then lift the lid and sigh with relief. The dumplings will be snowy white puffs.

Edna Staebler from Food that Really Schmecks

Friday, 18 April 2008

Another recipe: Palmiers

I had forgotten about this recipe until someone mentioned palmiers on the TES (Times Educational Suppliment) Forum. I made these for Christmas because I love the palmiers that you can buy at the patisserie Paul in London. I hope you like these.

Palmier Recipe
Ingredients: Makes 24

75 g/3 oz caster (superfine) sugar
225 g/8 oz puff pastry (paste), thawed if frozen
25 g/1 oz/2 tbsp butter, melted


Sprinkle the work surface with a little sugar. Roll out the pastry thinly to about 25 x 30 cm/10 x 12 in. Brush with a little melted butter and sprinkle liberally with sugar. Fold the long sides in so they nearly meet in the middle, then flip one folded side over the other. Wrap in clingfilm (plastic wrap) and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Using a sharp knife, cut into 24 slices and place on a wetted baking (cookie) sheet. Bake in a preheated oven at 220°C/425°F/gas mark 7 for 10 minutes. Turn each palmier over and bake for a further 3-4 minutes until crisp and golden brown all over. Sprinkle immediately with more sugar and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight tin.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Witts End

Witt's End was the name that I had thought of giving to our house when we bought it. Alas, it seems that we will not be buying it for the foreseeable future. The value of property in the UK declined by 2.5% last month and the cost of mortgages is increasing despite the fact that the prime lending rate offered by the Bank of England is decreasing. It's obviously not a good time to buy, even if the bank would give us a mortgage.

There is a theme emerging in my life at the moment. First the bank thinks I'm too old to get a mortgage. Secondly, my dentist thinks that my teeth may fall out. Finally, a group of physicist at the new particle accelerator in Switzerland may create a black hole during one of their experiments. I asked Michael, my resident physicist, what would happen if they did. Apparently, the universe, as we know it, would end. Not slowly, but in an instant. I suppose that it would be a relief knowing that it would all be over before I even knew that it was happening. I like the idea that I wouldn't have to worry about it. No, "News at 6. Today in Switzerland a black hole was formed. We have 12 hours to the end of the world." Instantaneous is better.

It would certainly solve a lot of my problems. In fact, it would solve all of our problems. There's a lot to be said about that. No waiting for global warming to finish us off. A blink of the eye and nothing. Unless of course there is life after life. I don't mean to sound depressing. I don't find it depressing at all. Rather, I find it comforting and even uplifting. It's even given me a story idea.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Beef in Ale Stew

I cooked this recipe this weekend and it was wonderful. It calls for 1.5 k of beef and I found that was far more than you would need for 6 people. However, it does give you lots of lovely leftovers.


50 g butter
250g salt pork, pancetta or slab bacon, cut into 2.5cm cubes
500g white onions, peeled, halved and sliced
up to 50g plain (all purpose flour)
salt and ground black pepper
500ml good beef stock
2 bay leaves
a few parsley stalks

1. Heat the butter in a large frying pan over medium-high heat and brown the pancetta until the fat runs. Transfer to a casserole.

2. Reduce the heat to low and in the same pan gently fry the onions, stirring occasionally, until soft and starting to turn golden (about 15 minutes). Transfer to the casserole.

3. Toss the beef in seasoned four, shaking off any excess, and in the same pan brown the meat in batches. transfer it to the casserole when nicely coloured on all sides.

4. Pour some ale into the pan to deglaze, making sure you scrape up the tasty bits stuck to the bottom, then tip into the casserole. Pour the rest of the ale and stock over the meat, adding a little water if needed to cover the meat.

5. Add the herbs, tied into a bouquet garni, and season.

6. Bring to boil a boil, then simmer very gently, partially covered, for 2 and a half hours for chuck/stewing steak, three hours for shin, until the meat is really tender - do this on the stove or in a very low oven (120C/235F/gas mark 1/2).

7. Add hot water if the meat gets exposed and starts to dry out.

(If you want to cook dumplings, add them for the last 45 minutes.)

I'll post a recipe for dumplings tomorrow.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Winter returns!

This is what we woke up to this morning! What fun! It's now after two in the afternoon and most of it has disappeared! Alas!

Brownies again!

Why I've suddenly acquired such an interest in brownies, I'm not sure. It started with my local farm shop asking me what American brownies were really like. And here I am on my third recipe.

First a note on the second recipe. I didn't like the consistency of the previous recipe and so cooked it again last week using double the chocolate. In fact, I received a chocolate bar with my copy of the Guardian last Saturday - dark chocolate with orange and fig. I didn't think that I'd eat it so I used it in the brownies. So here is the recipe again with the changes:


4 oz of dark chocolate (flavored if you like)(in fact the whole bar if you want to)
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

1. In small saucepan over low heat, melt chocolate with butter, remove from heat and add vanilla; set aside.

2. In mixing bowl, beat eggs lightly. Gradually beat in sugar. In separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt; stir into egg mixture. Stir in chocolate mixture, then nuts.

3. Spread in greased 8-inch (2L) square pan. Bake in 350F (180C) oven for about 25 minutes (brownies should appear slightly under-baked in center). cool; front if desired. Makes about 16 squares.

Another Brownie Recipe

Guiniess and Walnut chocolate Brownies

Makes 16


145 g plain flour
80g unsweetened cocoa, plus a little extra for dusting
1/2 teaspoon salt
220g dark chocolate, around 70% broken into small pieces
90grams unsalted butter, cubed, plus a little extra for greasing
80grams light Muscovado sugar
80grams dark Muscovado sugar
4 eggs (at room temperature)
225ml bottled stout (IE. Guinness)
165g walnuts, in large pieces

1. Preheat oven to 170C (325F/gas mark 3) Grease a 23cm X 30cm X 5cm (9X12 inch) baking tin with a little butter, then dust with a little cocoa.

2. Sift the flour, cocoa and salt into a bowl. Melt the butter and chocolate in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. Remove from the heat and tip the sugars over the top. Leave for two minutes, then stir.

3. Beat in the eggs one at a time until you have a glossy mixture.

4. Stir in the stout (Guinness), then fold in the flour, cocoa and two thirds of the walnuts until just combined - don't over mix.

5. Pour into the tin and sprinkle over the remaining walnuts.

6. Bake for 25 minutes until just set in the middle - a skewer should come out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it.

7. Leave cool in the tin for 30 minutes before cutting into squares.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

The Dentist (now that's a title to put anyone off!)

I've just gotten back from the dentist! No fillings this time, nor teeth that need to be cut up before they are removed! Just a simple cleaning. Though, how can anything that involves someone with their hands in your mouth for half an hour, chipping away at your plaque, be simple. I was supposed to be there for an hour appointment but I knew that it would be more than I could cope with. So, just the bottom ones this time and another round to look forward to next week. There is nothing pleasant about this procedure and luckily, I have a hygienist who doesn't pretend that there is. I was going to say that there wasn't even any music playing but now that I think about it, perhaps there was. Barry Manilow and Lola keep going round in my head but it probably wasn't that.

Undergoing teeth cleaning can take on a surrealistic quality, rather like waiting for a bus in England or a ferry to the Greek islands. I also get the same feeling whenever I read the book of Revelations. I decided to try and think of something else. What? I have just written a new first chapter for my book and needed to re-write the 'romantic encounter' of the now second chapter. Yes, that would be my distraction. Wrong. How can anyone have romantic thoughts, even if they are just fiction with the noise of the cleaning tools boring through your head. I couldn't hear myself think, let alone conjure up romantic prose. Sam and Evie decided to skip the kiss and went their separate ways to anywhere quiet.

When my hygienist had finished, she asked me about flossing. Yes, I do it but apparently, you could drive a bus through the spaces between some of my teeth and I now have to use a bottle brush instead. No, of course it's not really a bottle brush. For one thing, my brushes are more expensive. I came out of there poorer, and feeling my age, or some older person's age which would be mine one day. As I walked home, I couldn't shake the picture of a woman, soon to loose her teeth, followed by her hair turning gray and falling out too. I have all ready experienced the joys of loosing my hair and it wasn't that bad. However, in the mood I was in, it was just another indignity to be faced, probably sooner rather than later. When you're 27, growing old is a long time away. When you're 57, it's a reality you will soon have to face. Or not! I choose the latter for the time being.

The Barry Manilow effect

This has given me a laugh and lifted my spirits. Transport providers in the UK are experimenting with Barry Manilow music to disperse groups of young people from platforms and outside stations. "They called her Lola..." It might have the same effect on me for that matter! The next question is, 'What would you use to disperse 'baby boomers'?' Any suggestions, please!

How a phone call messed up my day!

I know I shouldn't let such things upset me, but I received a phone call from someone who works for the bank I use. My husband and I are hoping to buy a house and are trying to sort out a mortgage. (Yes, yes, I know it's not a good time to buy but sometimes you still need to do these things even when the time isn't right!) We thought that everything was going ahead just fine, when I received this call at 8:45 in the morning from someone I could barely understand (for various reasons) saying that I needed to come up with 30,000 pounds more to put down on the house. I am still waiting to hear from my mortgage adviser about what is going on. It's just put me on edge. Yesterday, I washed the floors by hand to try and get over this feeling. Then I wrote 2000 words on my next chapter. I thought I was over it until I got up this morning and found myself waiting for the phone call (which didn't come yesterday). I'm also going to the dentist at 2:30 so that might be part of the problem. Alas!

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Books we have enjoyed

I really appreciated Donna Leon suggesting some authors that I might enjoy reading. I thought that I might do the same. As you may or may not know, I am a detective fiction fan. I want to amend that somewhat to say that I like books with mysteries, since not all of them include detectives, though I suppose that might not even be absolutely correct. If there is a mystery, there is a detective, whether that is their profession or not. Take Shadow of the Wind as an example. In that novel there is most definitely a mystery. A boy adopts a book from a secret library and then spends much of his life finding out what has happened to the author. The search frames his development and his future. I love that idea of adopting a book and ensuring that it does not cease to exist. In fact, I did the same in October when I came across a library in a Bridport church. I suppose it wasn't a library in the conventional sense, in that you could borrow books from it. It was rather a large, rambling collection of second handbooks which had almost taken over the church from the balconies to the basement. Cliff and I went in to have a cup of tea and look at a few books and were overwhelmed by the size. I bought a book with Shadow of the Wind in mind and it is now on my shelves...somewhere. I don't remember what it was called and shall have to look for it tomorrow and perhaps read it. I suppose that if no one reads a book then in a way it has ceased to exist. More tomorrow!