Sunday, October 30, 2011

In which we do our bit to help the Greek economy

Shall I? Shan't I? Butternut Squash that is.

Well YES! I notice the country of origin on the label is Greece and put it in my basket straightaway. What else can I do to support the lovely people of Paxos who have made us so welcome over the years?
 What's there not to like about this nobbly vegetable - the colour of sunshine inside?
A slurp of the ancestral Maple Syrup (see previous post) and a dab of butter, seasoning to taste and into the oven alongside the roasting chicken it goes.

....Wonder how many Butternut squash I will have to buy before I am entitled to a free Greek island.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pheasants - nil,

...Chester - erm, 6

I don't think we're particularly proud of that.

I wish he'd concentrate on hunting out all the photos I've inadvertently deleted from iPhoto. Not as bad as it seems as I do tend to squirrel the good 'uns away as I go on - but even so....I'm pretty cross with myself right now. Waaaaaiilllll!!!!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Well known phrases and sayings - No. 9

Make do and Mend.

These are straitened times indeed - and however much I would like a shiny new fridge I'm just going to have to have the old one repaired. Just like we always did in the olden days.

A visit from Mr Whirlpool and his lad and now it is as good as new - or will be next week when the engineer remembers to bring the spare part for the ice-maker. He did replace the compressor fan though so now instead or a noise like a helicopter hovering in the corner there is a gentle and livable-with hum. Sorted. And did I mention 'shiny'? Well Mr Whirlpool had just the thing; a stainless steel polishing kit - mine for only a staggering sum. After he's polished half a door and showed me the erm, staggering results, how could I refuse? So now with a little elbow grease I will, once again, have the working fridge of my dreams.

Why though do I not feel a cozy satisfied glow at having saved myself something like 800 smackers but instead come over all disgruntled that some miniscule parts out of grubby cardboard boxes should cost me in excess of £200?

Next week I will tackle the issue of the broken food processor lid. To glue or not to glue? That is the question.

Talking of questions - just how like Cointreau will my newly made Orange Liqueur be? Will it be a good substitute?

'Not very.' I hear you mutter at the back - and I am inclined to agree.

But never mind, it's a cheering thing to make on a grey old day. A bit like bottling sunshine.

Margaret H kindly copied out her recipe for me so I do feel I must give it a go. Gin (Tanner's finest Hereford Dry), sugar and citrus zest to be shaken daily for 3 weeks. I don't think it is going to be something to be glugged copiously - a bit like Cointreau in that respect - but sipped genteely in a ladylike manner. I wonder if it would make a good long drink with tonic and clinking cubes of ice.

Ah yes, ice cubes. Roll on next Thursday when Mr Whirlpool promises to call with another grubby cardboard carton. Perhaps I'll feel a bit better about the mending process then.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Trust me - that little blob hovering top-left of the picture is a hot air balloon.  In the interests of a better composition I have cut off the landscape below so you can't tell that it is passing over an unprepossessing industrial estate on the outskirts of Welshpool and heading at the whim of the wind who knows where.

Saturday morning  in the small mountain kingdom was gorgeous. Blue sky as above; warm and balmy, an archetypal autumn day. Good to be alive etc.

The Glam Ass and I head off to Welshpool which lies perhaps 4 miles to the west. We see as we begin to drop down off the Long Mountain that the Severn Valley is full of mist. This isn't unusual - we often are bathed in sunshine while the valleys below us on either side are fog-bound. It's actually quite pretty today; ribbons of fine pale cloud hang above the meandering river - a gauzy drifting film.

What's that? Over there....'Oh look! It's a balloon!' But not one, or two or three or four. I count 13, some of them so low I think they must be almost touching roofs and trees. But no, they float over the town and northwards rising to go over the hill called the Rhallt. A small plane coming into Welshpool 'airport' (yes, folks we have one of those but easyJet haven't found it yet) is mightily confused and fortunately is able to do circuit after circuit until its path is clear to land.

What a wonderful day to travel by balloon - I am most envious.....until I spot that the pilot above is not in a basket - he or she seems to be suspended in some sort of harness. Oooo er! I'm not that brave.

The sky stays blue - it's a day to spend in the garden. Over in Badnage Wood there's a lot of bird activity. A Jay squawks occasionally, a couple or three Buzzards soar over the trees mewing to each other. Then Ravens, big and black as night fly up out of the conifers, their cries metallic barking 'gronks'. They roll and tumble acrobatically in the sky; dropping, twisting and rising in unison. Such a joyous display - such dancing partners.
I am reminded of the birds on Willow Pattern ware:

Imagine if you can black birds against a blue sky instead of 'blue' birds on a white jug...

The jug is the ancestral milk jug which graced the breakfast tables of my childhood and was filled with fresh milk brought in a can from the dairy down the road. Milk bottles on the table were 'common' and came later anyway. But that is another story.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

In which we do Harvest Suppers

I don't think that I could have ever described my mother as parsimonious; in many ways she was a most generous person who enjoyed her share of the finer things in life - but she was from Yorkshire and the product of a tough upbringing in the post World War I slump. Education took her away from the drudgery and toil of a scrubby small farm on the outskirts of a manufacturing town. She worked and worked to earn whatever came her way,  money that key to comfort, was too hard-won by to be lightly thrown away. The phrase 'if I do owt for nowt, I do it for m'sen' was unspoken but pretty close to the truth.

It must then have been a source of some relief to her (again unspoken) that the date of the Harvest Festival service in the parish church of Wroxton St Mary in 1975 was Sunday October 5th.

Why would this be? The date of my wedding was Saturday the 4th and the church would be bedecked with a sumptuous array of autumn goodness - carrots, chrysanths and cabbage, turnips, spuds and mega-marrows - for the service on the following day. There would be no need for wedding flowers. I would walk down the aisle to seasonal munificence. My bridesmaid and I would be permitted a small posy apiece however. I chose white freesias - though now think I would perhaps have enjoyed a walk down the aisle with a bouquet of various herbs.

I remember those massed carrots and turnips as well as I remember the service itself - the abundant veg and the burnished wood of the medieval rood screen we stood nervously in front of. The smell was wonderful  too of course - this was a marriage made in a greengrocers shop with overtones of beeswax polish.
Fast forward - 36 years down the line and my thoughts go back to that harvest festival (glossing over the suburban years in between where harvest gifts were tins of soup and beans). While we remember it's our wedding anniversary we're also well aware that this is the Harvest Festival season in these parts. Each village holds it's own -  a service followed by a meal and an auction of goods; the good Lord is thanked, the belly filled and with the auctioneer's encouragement our purses opened and emptied.

A good auctioneer makes all the difference  - after years of experience at the the local lifestock mart, Carl at Marton and Malcolm up here in Trelystan can give the professionals a run for their money and their audience a laugh or two.

Such a mountain of produce to buy - and we come home from each Supper with fresh fruit and vegetables.

Back home we sit and look at our haul - we have potatoes and mighty onions, carrots, honey and lemon curd.

What to do with that bag of pears though? They're hard as the proverbial hobs of hell. Neither of us are particularly inclined to munch away at them. 

Let's experiment -  chicken drumsticks and a dab of butter on a bed of peeled and cored pears. Go to the back of the fridge and unearth the jar of maple syrup (which really does need eating up soonish). A slosh or a drool of that, season with salt and black pepper and into the oven it goes.

Have to admit it tasted pretty good with sweet corn and green beans - and as there are still plenty of pears left it's something we'll be eating again.