Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Chocolaty crumbly hugs

I have another funny story to share. 
This photograph was taken from a large painting that hung in our living room.  It has been in the family for years and it was the reason my mother married my father.

The story goes as follows.  My father worked in a bank in Salisbury as an office clerk.  A friend arranged a blind date between my Dad and my Mother - who was under the impression that Dad was a Bank Manager.

Although there were no romantic sparks of undying love-at-first-sight they went on a few more dates before Daddy took Mother home to introduce her to Mama and Bumps.

As they walked into the living room, Mother noticed the large castle painting on the wall and mentioned how pretty it was.  Daddy, as a joke said "yes, that's our family home".  Little did anyone know that Mother took this seriously!  A short while later they were married and the family teased Mother for ages about "the family home".  You can see on the photo - Dad even wrote that down!

They were married for 12 years, and as I mentioned before - the best thing that ever happened was when they divorced and I went to live with Mama and Bumps. During the big "D" ...and to be honest for as long as I can remember, Mama used to make my Dad Romany Creams when we was feeling a bit down. 

They were like chocolaty crumbly hugs of happiness.  Although I always asked... Mama would not allow me to make the fork indentations on the biscuits until I was in my teens.  I was however always allowed to lick the spoon and use my fingers to scrape out the heavenly chocolate batter.

Mama's special Romany Creams - the cure for any heartache

What you need:
  • 2 cups of cake flour
  • 230 grams butter
  • 1/2 cup dessicated coconut
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 1 tea spoon baking powder
  • 3 table spoons good quality cocoa (I substitute this for a large slab of dark chocolate when feeling flush)
  • Large slab milk chocolate
  • 1/2 cup cream
How to make the biscuits:
  • Cream butter and sugar until pale and creamy
  • If using cocoa, dissolve in a little hot water.  If using the dark chocolate - melt over a bowl of steaming water.
  • Mix all ingredients together so form a firm dough.
  • Roll into walnut size pieces and place on greased baking sheet, press each one down with a fork to make a pattern like Mama did
  • Bake for 10 minutes on 180 degrees and allow to cool.
How to make the cream filling
  • Heat the cream on the stove - don't allow to boil. 
  • Break into it the chocolate and stir till glossy and melted. Allow to cool.
Sandwich two biscuits together using the cooled and thickened chocolate cream. Dust with cocoa powder and serve with a fresh pot of coffee...YUM!

Friday, 23 September 2011

Golden Cornish Pasties

I loved shopping days in Salisbury.

Shopping days for us were jam packed with grocery shopping, marmalade delivery, doctor visits, library visits, visits to the plant nursery and afternoon visits with friends and family.  We would load the Opel up with the boxes of jams and marmalade, get dressed in "town clothes" and head off bright and early.

Salisbury was a beautiful city, sadly not so much now.  I remember if full of pretty well kept gardens and roads lined with shady purple Jacaranda and bright red Flamboyant trees. The place to shop was at Meikels or Greatamans. We did our grocery shopping and Bon Marche and we would stop at the Dairy Den for a 99 (ice cream cone with a chocolate flake).  We would park in streets named Manica Avenue or Stanley Avenue.

On special occasions, we would go to Barbour's tea-room and I would shiver in excitement as the cake trolley would make its way in between the tables.  I always took a raspberry slice and had a soda float.  Everybody in Barbour's was properly dressed.  I never went into town with farm clothes on... always a pretty dress.  Although I was far more a tomboy than a frilly girl, I loved the dress up and pompness of a town visit.  I loved getting into the lift and a man dressed in a green uniform and a top hat would tell us what was on each floor.

Sometimes we would visit Aunt Gene, Mama's sister who was a well known artist and many of her paintings hung in the Rhodesian Art gallery.  She was an eccentric spinster who had travelled the world.  Her little studio was filled with exotic gatherings from strange places and smelt of a mixture of beauty powder and pastel paints.  In her bathroom hung silk stockings and Japanese kimonos - it was a magical place and Aunt Gene was a strange yet captivating tiny slip of a woman.  Dark hair tied up with chopsticks, so unlike Mama's soft and loose blond curls.

We would make our way home just as the sun was starting to set.  I was always crammed between huge bags of sugar, flour and maize meal. I would dream away on the back seat of our little gray Opel, of the beautiful women and handsome gentlemen I saw in Barbour's tea-room, or imagine the faraway places Aunt Gene had been to. 

Dinner on these evenings would be Cornish pasties that Mama had made the day before.  Kelly would have them warming in the oven for us and we would simply wash up and enjoy the delicious pies with peas and gravy.

Mama's Cornish pasties - actually this is my Great grandmother's recipe

What you need:
  • 1/2 kilo beef fillet or rump steak cut into small cubes
  • 1 large raw potato cubed
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1 carrot cut into small cubes
  • Short crust pastry (um sorry Mama...but I am saying shop bought is fine here)
  • Salt & pepper
  • Few dashes Worcester sauce
  • 1 egg
  • a little oil
How to make:
  • Fry the cubed meat and onion in a little oil until brown
  • Add in the potato and carrots and cook for 10 minutes on a low heat
  • Add salt & pepper and Worcester sauce
  • Roll out the short crust pastry (about 2 cm thick) and use a saucer to cut out rounds
  • Place some of the meat mixture in the middle
  • bBush the sides of the pastry with some beaten egg and fold over the pastry. Pinch closed.  Place one fork prick in the centre of the pie.
  • Brush with the remaining egg.
  • Place in hot oven (200 degrees) for ten minutes, then turn down the heat to 150 degrees and bake for a further 30 minutes.
Delicious cold too!

I came across a beautiful blog the other day and although many of the photographs are before my time, you can see the beauty of the city. Do take a look...colonialism is its most beautiful. Picture perfect streets with gorgeous parks and gloriously beautiful museums and buildings. It makes me so sad to see what it looks like now. 

But this is not a political blog, these are just my memories and I choose to remember the beauty of my childhood as best as I can.

Read more about Rhodesia

Monday, 19 September 2011

Pot-roast beef 'n gravy

Sunday lunch was always a momentous occasion.

We often had a huge pot-roast beef with crispy parsnips, roast spuds, creamed spinach and glazed carrots. Oh and lashings of gravy too of course! The best of mama's table ware was carefully laid out on the beautiful mahogany dinning room table.  White starched table cloth and Mama's "birds of paradise" dinner plates accompanied the crystal wine glasses and napkins in silver rings.

I would pick flowers from the garden and arrange them in tiny little vases to be placed on on the right hand corner of each place mat.  The place mats were scenes from fox hunting or something like that.  Very "horsey"... I recall.  They matched the paintings on the wall. 

My Great Aunt Gene was a marvelous artist and she painted many beautiful paintings - some of which I have hanging in my current home.  In Mama's dinning room, hung paintings of majestic race horses - dapple greys with their tiny jockeys or brooding black beasts in mid air as the sored over gymkhana poles. On the Welsh Dresser was a white marble statue of a almost naked voluptuous lady draped on a lionesses back.  Bumps would joke and say that was Mama in her younger days. We believed him.

When we would eat no more, we would leave the table with full belly's and drooping eyes.  It was time for the "pit of joy" Bumps would say and we all made our way to our rooms to snooze off the mighty lunch.  I hated this part.  Nothing worse for a ten year old to have to sleep in the afternoon.  I would reluctantly lie on my bed and will myself not to sleep.  More often than not, I failed and would wake up all groggy and bleary eyed.

Sunday afternoons would be a lull in activity...Mama would write her letters to faraway friends and Bumps would be on the radio chatting to someone from a magical foreign land.  His call sign was Z23JO and I loved listing to the code language. 

Zebra-two-three-juliet-oscar he would call out, or he would tap on his Morse key instrument sending location details to his contact.  His den wall was full of call sign cards received from all over the world.  Tobago and Vietnam and Papa New Guinea.  He even had one from the Vatican City!

Sunday suppers always consisted of sandwiches. If we had roast beef for lunch - then roast beef and mustard sarnies we would have for supper.  This is a really simple yet tasty pot-roast beef recipe.  100% fool proof... trust me I would know!

Mama's Pot-Roast Beef

What you need:
  • Large piece of beef silver side - the biggest piece that will fit in your biggest pot
  • 1 litre of beef stock
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 roughly chopped onion
  • 3 roughly chopped carrots and leeks
  • 2 glasses of white wine
  • A little oil
  • 3 table spoons corn flour
  • Knob of butter
How to make:
  • Heat the oil in your largest pot, and sear the meet on all sides.
  • Add in your chopped vegetables and allow to sweat for a few minutes.
  • Pour in the beef stock and wine and add the bay leaves and a generous amount of salt and pepper.
  • The liquid must cover the meat, add water if needs be.
  • Allow to slow cook in the oven for 3 hours on a low heat - about 140 degrees.  Keep checking liquid to make sure meat does not dry out.
  • Take the beef out of the pot and loosely wrap in tin foil and set aside to rest.
  • Put the pot onto boil and allow the liquid to reduce. 
  • Pour the reduced gravy through a sieve into another pot, squishing the veggies to get all the flavour out.  So all you are left with is a meaty brown broth.
  • Mix the corn flour with a little water and add to the gravy to thicken.  Test for taste and add salt and pepper if needs be. Add the butter and take gravy off heat.
  • Slice the beef as thin as you can and lay in a large shallow dish.  Pour your gravy over the meat and put dish back into oven to keep warm until you are ready to serve.
I promise you... YUM and worth the effort!!

Friday, 16 September 2011

Saturday onion and garlic pate

Bumps loved to watch wrestling. 

On Saturday evenings, we were allowed dinner in front of the telly.  Bumps would watch the most ridiculous wrestle mania where the acting was worse than the costumes.  He would be glued to the little black and white telly making all kinds of grunting noises and shouting at the telly when his favorite wrestler "Big Daddy" took a tumble.

Mama would serve an informal dinner served right from the tea trolley.  Things like baked spuds with cheese sauce, or sausages butties (SOS Bumps called them... sausages on Saturday), or fresh out the oven crusty bread laden with butter and fresh home made onion and garlic pate. 

Bumps would be "naughty" and have a lager right from the bottle!  I was allowed a G'nT...(ginger syrup and tonic) and Mama would have the real thing.  It did not matter that I messed crumbs all over the carpet as Libby, Benny (bb), Gretel and Polly were positively salivating at my crumb dropping skills. It was as if on a Saturday evening you could let your hair down and tap into your inner rebel!

After Bumps had satisfied his wrestle fever, we would get out a game of Scrabble and poor Mama and Bumps would congratulate me on my spelling!  Very tricky you know... words like dog, cat, sun and hen.  Thank goodness as I got older the Scrabble games became more intelligent. Incidentally... I am married to an Afrikaans man who without fail, would trash the Geddes clan on every occasion!

After our scrabble game we would enjoy hot honey milk and a piece of shortbread, and I would make my way to bed to be tucked in with a soft rose scented kiss from my beloved Mama.

Here is Mama's onion and garlic pate...serve with fresh bread or your favorite crackers.

What you need:
  • 2 onions
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 150 mls thick cream
  • 1 tub of cream cheese
  • Salt & Pepper
  • handful fresh parsley
  • A little oil

How to make:
  • Roughly chop the onions and the garlic and saute in a little oil until translucent. Set aside to cool.
  • Put all the ingredients and a good sprinkle of S&P into a food processor and blitz till smooth.
  • Allow to chill for at least an hour and then devour!
Want to make the perfect G'nT?  Read this fabulous blog!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Beef pepper pot comfort

The sheer beauty of an African thunder storm takes your breath away.

On thunder storm evenings, the lights often tripped and we were left to marvel at the lightning bolts striking the earth in ferocious anger.  Each lightning bolt would bring an “oohhh” or a “blimey now that’s a good one” from the three of us as we sat watching the show through the French doors.

I loved the lightning but hated the clap of thunder that came after it.  Mama would tell me that I shouldn’t worry; it was only God moving furniture up stairs.  That has always stayed with me and I have told the same thing to my young son as he huddled close to me in later years.

We would light some candles – Mama called them fairy lights – and we would have an impromptu picnic.  We would get the little gas stove out and brew a fresh pot of tea and Bumps was allowed to “legally” raid the pantry and we would snack on assorted nuts, cherries and home-made biscuits. 

Bumps would try getting me to laugh and would sing some more silly rhymes.  Like this one... 
“Now I'm getting very fond of my gas mask I declare, it hardly ever leaves my sight.  I sling it on my back and I take it everywhere.  It even comes to bed with me at night”...
I did not understand the black humour of these ditties, but he sang them with such flamboyance that I could not help but giggle.  I still smile when I think of these songs.

I would cuddle up next to Mama, my feet pulled up tightly and I would wedged myself under Mama’s arm.  I did exaggerate my fear, I have to be honest.  It just felt so wonderful to have such dedicated attention and to feel true joyous comfort in their love.  I’m afraid I did milk it for all it was worth...

Today’s recipe is one filled with comfort.  The same as Mama and Bumps would give me deep and unwavering comfort, so too will Mama’s beef pepper pot.  Comfort from the inside!

Mama’s Pepper Pot

What you need:

  • 1 kg rump steak cut up into chunks
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 4 large peppers – two green, one red and one yellow – also chopped
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Few glugs of Worcester sauce
  • 2 table spoons corn flour
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • Big knob of butter
  • 500 mls beef stock

How to make:

  • Fry the onions in the butter until translucent, add the rump pieces and brown.
  • Sprinkle the corn flour over the meat and give it a good stir.
  • Add all the remaining ingredients and put in the oven for 90 minutes on 150 degrees.
  • Serve with rice. YUM!

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Rose tea cake

We did not own the Hesslewood House and neither were we farmers.  Bumps worked as the book keeper for the local farm store.  The farm house and farm store was owned by a lady called Mrs Chetwynd and she lived in a very posh double story house on the hillside. 

Once a week I would go down to the store with Bumps, and he would drop me off at Mrs Chetwynd so that I could go for a swim in her enormous pool.  She was a short and stout old lady – so very different to Mama.  She was one rinse away from purple...  She wore 1940s style dresses with sensible shoes and had soft grey hair brushed back in a tight bun.

I did not like her much, but was ever so grateful to be able to use her pool.  Back then, I did not mind that the pool was green or the sides were slick with algae.  It was a delicious respite from a very hot summer day and I swam with relish.  Mrs Chetwynd used to sit on a bench watching me to make sure I did not make too much of a splash and waste water.  She never spoke a word expect for the instruction to not splash and to announce it was time to come up for tea.  She would then leave and tell me to come to the sun room as soon as I was dry. The few minutes I had alone were magical.  I would get out of the pool and try achieving the biggest splashes by bombing into the pool! 

I gulped cups of weak tea to wash the dry crumbly tea cake down.  Yeugh...Mrs Chetwynd’s tea cakes were horrendous! But I was raised to always be polite and no matter how disgusting, it was expected to eat what I was given.  This painful ritual happened at least once a week and I returned to be beautiful and sweet smelling grandmother – each time more and more grateful that I was her granddaughter and not Mrs Chetwynd’s.

Mama would send me off to have a warm bath with some of her special rose water oil after which I would sit cross legged next to her on the settee and sip on a ginger ale. I would recount how horrid Mrs Chetwynd’s tea cake was, or how awful Mrs Chetwynd’s shoes were...in some way – as best as a young girl could - tried to show Mama how happy I was that she was my granny.

Mama’s DELICIOUS rose flavoured tea cake

What you need:
  • 5 eggs, separated
  • The zest of one lemon
  • 1 table spoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon rose water (never more or it’s a perfume cake)
  • 250 grams caster sugar
  • 175 grams sifted cake flour
  • 100 grams ground almonds

How to make:
  • Beat egg yolks with lemon zest, lemon juice and rose water until thick and pale.
  • Beat the egg whites until soft peaks, and add caster sugar in small amounts.
  • Fold in the egg yolk mixture alternating with the sifted flour and ground almonds.
  • Turn into a greased cake tin and bake for 1 hour on 150 degrees.
  • Allow to cool then dust with icing sugar and decorate with fresh rose petals.
  • Delicious with lemon tea

Want to make your own rose water? Click here...

I love hearing from you... feel free to leave a comment or two!

Friday, 9 September 2011

Cheese 'n chutney

Do you do hair hair?

This was a standing joke between us Geddes clan.... Mama opened her own thriving hair salon called Knightsbrige soon after they arrived in Rhodesia in the 1950s.  The joke as I understood it was due to a very posh lady who - on entering the shop - loundly asked Mama if she did hair hair.  What the lady actually meant to ask was d"o you do hair here"...but her accent was so posh that it took Mama a moment to understand the question.  As the word “hairdresser” was on the shop window in large writing it seemed pretty obvious that yes, she did actually do hair hair!

Later on when Mama retired and closed her salon, she still continued to do manicures at a popular hair salon called Deep Purple.  I assume named after the gorgeous purple Jacaranda trees lining the street.
She was always booked weeks in advance. I would sit quietly in the corner of the shop and watch as Mama went about the manicure whilst the hairdresser rolled, teased and sprayed.  The client never seemed to stop talking!  How Mama, the hairdresser and the client kept track of what was being said – I only understood when I too sat in a chair as an adult - and kept up conversation with beautician and hairdresser...

Mama had a specially designed tray which housed her little gems of nail varnish bottles, acetone, cotton wool, nail files, clippers and home-made moisturising lotion which Mama made from aqueous cream and her own rose water. I loved reading the names on the bottles; “demure apricot”, “luscious pink”, “racy hot red”, “sun kissed rose” ...Strange how the name of a nail polish can evoke an emotion.  I was often lucky enough to score a manicure but was only ever allowed “blushing pink” and not “vixen red” which seemed to popular amongst the Salisbury ladies.

It was during one of these manicure sessions, that Mama met a lady called Maureen.  She was the wife of a tobacco farmer based in Centenary - about 75 kilometres from the Zambian border.  Maureen and Mama became very good friends and Maurenn would become a close family friend in years to come.  I remember Maureen as a petite, very sun tanned lady, always perfectly dressed and with bright vixen red nails.

On the days I would accompany Mama to the salon, she would pack us a light lunch.  It’s a sandwich which although very plain and simple, conjures up a wealth of emotions in me. 

Mama’s famous cheese ‘n chutney sandwiches:  Mix two sorts of grated cheese (Cheddar and Gouda work nicely) with some spicy chutney.  Spread generously on fresh bread which you have buttered.  YUM...

Mama’s home-made “quick hot” chutney

What you need:
  • 600 grams dried apricots
  • 50 grams green chillies
  • 125 grams apricot jam
  • 750 mls white vinegar
  • 50 grams chili powder
  • 5 mls turmeric
  • 200 mls sunflower oil
  • 8 dates
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 60 grams sugar
  • 1 onion
  • 3 t-spoons salt

How to make:
  • Soak the dried apricots in a little hot water for 30 minutes.
  • Blitz the apricots, onion, chillies, garlic and dates in a blender.
  • Heat the oil and add turmeric and chili powder, give a good stir and add in all other ingredients.  Allow to simmer for 1 hour – cool and bottle.

Please don't forget to rate this post...

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Cottage Pie dreams

At the bottom of the circular driveway at Hesslewood House, sat an old grey Renault 4 rusting merrily in its own sweet time.

I would spend hours inside that car imaging the fabulous places I would one day visit, waving merrily at imaginary people as I drove past them with the wind in my hair and the ties of my scarf flapping gently against my cheek.

I did have imaginary friends... the four legged type.  It depended where in the world I was during that particular day dream.  It could be a beautiful French Poodle next to me as I explored the notion of a much read about Paris.  Some days, a rugged farm dog sat next to me as we searched for marsupials in the red sands of Australia (thanks Thorn Birds). Sometimes it was Toto from The Wizard of Oz and we were driving furiously away from the wicked witch of the west with her crazy monkeys is fast pursuit!

Libby, Benny big-balls, Polly and Gretel lay on the grass next to the car and occasionally looked up at me with heads cocked inquisitively. Sometimes if I was really lucky, Kitty our fat Siamese cat would climb in through the window and curl up on the passenger seat next to me.  I talked.  Kitty slept.  But I’m fairly certain we both got something out of it. 

I never once had a human imaginary friend.  You might think this a little lonely, but my imaginary and real life animal friends kept me the best of company. I took the dogs out for a walk every early morning and late in the afternoons.  I would step into big black wellington boots, grab a walking stick and head off to discover what lay outside the confines of the farm house with all four dogs in line.  We would spend hours lying on the warm sandy road holding a blade of grass over a tiny spider hole, trying to lure it out.  We often sat on a foot bridge a farmer had built over the farm fencing, and chewed on the soft sweet ends of green grass singing "Moon river" at the top of my lungs.  So you see, I was never alone.

When the sun was a huge burnt orange globe setting behind the fields and the compound children quiet, I would make my way home with panting tired dogs.  As I approached the front gate, I could always smell that my supper was on its way.  A splendid mix of fragrant veggies and roasting meat, or freshly baked Cornish pasties, or Cottage pie...YUM

Mama’s Cottage Pie

What you need:
  • 1 kg lean beef mince
  • 1 cup chopped carrot, onion and leek
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • ½ litre beef stock
  • A little oil
  • A few knobs of butter
  • Few glugs of Worcester sauce
  • 3 table spoons corn flour
  • Ready made mashed potatoes (leftovers work great!)

How to make:
  • Brown the mince in a little oil until it starts to brown. Pour off any excess oil.
  • In large pan, fry the veggies in a little oil, until soft then add the chopped garlic.
  • Sprinkle the corn flour over the veggies – stir - and add in the mince, stock, Worcester sauce and salt and pepper to taste.  It will thicken up nicely.
  • In either a large oven dish or little individual serving bowls, place the thickened meat sauce and spread a generous layer of mashed potatoes on the top.
  • Make patterns on it by running a fork length ways and then width ways...like Mama did.
  • Dot with butter and bake in the oven for 30 minutes until golden.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Ring my bell...

We rang a little silver bell when it was dinner time.

It was a sound that instantaneously prompted your saliva glands to swing into action. You know the story of Pavlov’s dogs?  Well...that dinner bell had us just about wagging our tails!

I still have the dinner bell, and ring it now and then when I get around to polishing the silver. I also still have Mama's castor sugar dispenser. It is a long hour glass shaped beautiful silver canister that you twist to open the little holes. She sometimes used to let me enjoy half a glass of wine on Sundays...and I always sweetened the wine with castor sugar from the same shiny treasure bottle.

I think the wine with sugar ruined my palate for any appreciation of dry wines. I adore crisp sweet white wine so chilled that its almost slush. Red wines... well I have an adoration for any red wine that contains chocolate. But the most delicious red wine I have ever tasted comes from a winery in The Cape - Fairview Wines. Do yourself a favour and order from the La Beryl selection.

The recipe I want to share with you today is Pork fillet in yoghurt. Oh so soft and tender juicy meat with a delicious creamy sauce. Mama left a little foot note for me under this recipe...she suggests cream instead of yoghurt – so if like me...cream is like mother’s milk – otherwise Bulgarian yoghurt will do!

Pork Fillet in Yoghurt

What you need:

  • 2 ½ kilo pork fillets
  • 125 grams mozzarella cheese cut into strips
  • 4 table spoons flour
  • 1 t-spoon salt
  • ½ t-spoon paprika, black pepper
  • 1 diced onion
  • A little oil
  • A knob of butter
  • 250 mls yoghurt or cream
  • 125 mls stock
  • Freshly chopped parsley

How to make:

  • Cut deep slits down the side of the pork and stuff strips of cheese into the gaps.
  • Mix the flour and spices together and gently roll the fillets in the flour mixture to coat them.
  • Add the oil and butter to a pan and fry off the onions till soft. Add the fillets and sear the meat on all sides until golden brown. Place the fillets in a casserole dish.
  • Deglaze the pan with a little stock. Pour in the rest of the stock and all the cream / yoghurt, stir and pour over the fillets.
  • Bake in the oven for 40 minutes at 180 degrees.
  • Take out of the oven to rest for 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with ....well what would YOU serve it with?

Monday, 5 September 2011

Julio and spiced nuts

I have no love for the music of Julio Iglesias...

But Mama adored him.  She would often open up the French doors on a hot afternoon, put on his record and blast “To all the girls I’ve loved before” out to the valley below. 
Can you imagine what the farm workers must of thought...?  She had all his albums and Mama would swoon over him.

She would lounge on her ingenious homemade garden lounger made from a welded steel frame and tightly wrapped garden hosepipe, with a little fibreglass sun roof.  Next to her would be a sun downer drink of angostura bitters, gin and soda with loads of ice and sliced lemon.  A bowl of homemade roasted nuts next to her, a flyswatter in one hand and a delicate Japanese style fan in the other.

I never saw Mama perspire once.  She always smelt of Yardley’s White Satin and had the courage to wear white linen trousers. She was never without her coral colour lipstick and her nails were always beautifully manicured. 
How on earth did she manage this?  I glance down at my short un- polished nails typing this blog...sitting here in my PJs and feel a little consoled by the fact that at least (today) I have a matching set of PJs on...

Today I will share with you Mama’s roasted nut recipe.  Super easy and extremely moreish!

What you need:
You can make a large batch of these – as long as you have a large pan to roast them in.  Otherwise do in batches.  They keep really well in an air tight container.
  • ½ kg of pecan nuts
  • ½ kg of almonds
  • ½ kg Brazil nuts
  • ½ kg raw peanuts with skins on
  • A little oil
  • 1 t-spoon of: sugar, salt, smoked paprika, cinnamon all added to 2 t-spoons of honey

How to make:
  • Mix the spices together to make a paste and warm in the microwave for 30 seconds (or on the stove as Mama used to do).
  • Put all the nuts into a large bowl and pour over the spice mix and gently toss to coat the nuts.
  • On a large baking sheet, rub the oil to cover the sheet with a thin layer.
  • Put the nuts onto the sheet – don’t overload the baking sheet.
  • Bake in the hot oven (200 degrees) for about 8 to 10 minutes – toss the nuts occasionally to make sure they don’t burn.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Bottoms Up

Every morning at 05h00 sharp, we would have tea in Mama’s bedroom and listen to the BBC stir us to patriotic English-ness.  Bumps would add to the pomp and ceremony by wearing the tea cosy on his head in a “pope-like” manner.

We would listen to the news, well Mama and Bumps would - and I would try to make sense of their “tsk tsks” and mutterings about what was happening to the world. At about 05h30, we would head our separate ways to get ready from breakfast which was always served at 07h00 sharp. 

Tea bound us.  There was never a day without tea. Mama always said there's the wrong way to make tea and then there's the right way to make tea.  Loose tea leaves, fresh water, warmed tea pot, tea strainer, a smidgen of milk and most definitely tea served in a cup and saucer.

We would have tea during breakfast, but percolated coffee after.  We would have tea at “elevenses” with a biscuit or two.  We would have tea after our lunch of crust less sandwiches. 
Then of course came the delicious afternoon tea...which was always served with something yummy like a fresh Victorian sponge or lemon curd tarts or date and walnut loaf.

I have become very lazy over the years and no longer make tea like I was taught.  I now bung in a tea bag and barely wait to add my milk.  I certainly never drink it out of a cup and saucer...unless I am in a restaurant and feel like being posh. But the familiar smell of tea warms my soul and reminds me of my dearest loving grandparents. “Bottoms up” as Bumps would say!

How do you make your tea? In a mug or cup 'n saucer?  I'd love to know...

Date and walnut loaf

What you need:
  • 1 cup of dates roughly chopped
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • 1 t-spoon soda bicarb
  • 1 egg
  • 1 table spoon butter
  • Pinch salt
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 1 t-spoon baking powder
  • ½ a cup chopped walnuts

How to make:
  • Sprinkle the soda bicarb over the chopped dates and pour in the boiling water.  It will fizzle and foam... this is correct.  Leave to stand for 10 minutes as the chopped dates turn into a delicious sticky gooey syrup.
  • Beat the butter, egg and sugar together.
  • Pour the date mixture into the butter mix and add in all other ingredients.  Mix till thoroughly combined and pour into a greased loaf tin.
  • Bake in the oven for about an hour on 150 degrees.
  • This is delicious spread with butter and of course... served with tea!  YUM