Archive for the ‘General Ramblings’ Category

Cold and slushy mornings are never a joy to wake up to. This morning was no exception. The kids decided to lay the pressure on with an anouncement of a school trip.

“Oh how lovely, when are you going to this nursery garden”, I say.

“Today”, says George, “and we need a packed lunch, waterproofs, warm cloths and a water bottle.”

He looks at me as if all this is possible with only 10 minutes before the school bus comes.

When you are always banging on to your kids about healthy eating and organic ethics, a jam sandwich just doesn’t cut the mustard. So without appearing too overwrought, I throw together a passable packed lunch, find a pair of waterproofs from the bottom of the cloak room (which thankfully don’t smell of cat pee), and pack them all into an organic cotton bag. The impossible it seems is doable, just don’t ask for a miracle before I have had 3 strong cups of coffee.

With all the rushing I actually arrive at work early, which is fortuitous because a lovely gaggle of walkers (what is the collective noun for walkers?) are coming in this morning for coffee and scotch eggs. Homemade scotch eggs are hardly diet food, but once you have had one you will be addicted. Come to think of it they would make excellent pack lunch fodder.

Scotch Eggs

  • Hard boiled organic eggs, shelled, 1 per person
  • 150g of sausage meat per egg. Make your own or buy very good butchers sausage meat, organic if you can get it.
  • Beaten egg
  • Homemade bread crumbs (its best to keep a supply in your freezer as you can use them from frozen)

Mould the sausage meat round the egg so it is completely covered, quite a sticky job.

Dip the raw scotch egg in beaten egg then coat in bread crumbs. Repeat this with all the eggs, then shallow fry in hot vegetable oil turning regularly until the balls are dark golden all over and the meat is cooked all the way through.

Serve them hot or cold with homemade chutney.

I have one for breakfast with a double shot latte, there goes the diet. Tomorrows another day!

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For me, it’s always difficult to get going in the morning. I like to get up early because once you are up you can get so much more done, it’s just the initial push needed to get out of bed where I stumble. I can be a marvelous whirlwind of activity once actually vertical.

After a quick look at eBay I’m also some what attracted to Freecycle, just a look you understand, I wasn’t going to actually buy anything (unless of course it was just too good to miss!). It was a little pot jug that caught my eye,  but I’m feeling particularly strong today so I resisted. Well done, good girl! Good girl!

Back to this evenings dinner party. Preparations are well under way, I have spent most of this morning drinking strong organic coffee (you should always take the organic thing as read unless I confess otherwise) and thinking about it. I work best under pressure.

I have hoovered, or at least chased tumbleweed of dog and cat hair around the house. I pay most attention to the room we live in, which runs “seamlessly” into the kitchen, and has a  large dinning table in the middle and a very ugly but efficient open fire. The rest of the house is too cold to linger in for more than a few seconds, for fear of serious frostbite, and a trip to the little downstairs loo is only for the very hardy (and it has broken may who thought themselves man enough for the job).

I make the children use that one, they can go out in the snow flatly refusing to wear a coat, not to mention the extra layers I try to force upon them. Hat, gloves extra vest, 2 jumpers, a waistcoat, 3 pairs of socks. They say I over-react to the conditions, so the down stairs loo is my revenge and in the dictatorship which is parenting you need all the leverage you can muster on your side.

So back to the dinner party. Northumbrian fish soup starter, half prepared, which reminds me to get a loaf of the most excellent wood fired bread out of the freezer (not my own, but made by a great guy who lives near Etal in Northumberland, with a bread business called The Great Northumberland Bread Company).

I feel I should confess at this point  to my ongoing affair with my freezer. I love it, and in return it loves me. I cook, label and freeze, it’s just like therapy. In extreme times of stress I go to it, look lovingly into its open arms (I really just lift the lid in panic, chanting “Please let there be something in here”) and it offers up soups, casserole, even homemade ice cream. If I could only remember to make a list of what I put in and scratch them off when I take them out, but that would really be too “Mary Poppins”-like.

So far:

  • A half prepared fish soup;
  • A henry Hoover fighting for breath;
  • A magnificent forerib of organic dexter beef in the fridge (Lee, my gorgeous partner, cut the beef joint for me this morning from an animal we had killed from our small herd of dexter cattle, and I have promised all sorts of thing that I will never deliver on, to secure the said joint)
  • A winter vegetable tagine and lemon couscous will accompany the meat, which I hope will satisfy the vegetarians among us. I have a huge stock of preserved lemon I made before Christmas for presents that I forgot to give to people, and they are so perfect for couscous.
  • The pud, I made yesterday. A really easy chocolate mousse with a little Baileys glugged in, the simplest pud to make and you can make it 2 or 3 days in advance. If you do make it well in advance, always make extra. You can hear them in the pantry calling to you, and you’d have to be made of stone not to go to them and check they are okay (which can only be done by tasting).
  • To finish us all off, some lovely local cheeses, not organic but from the dairy at Doddington near Wooler. I live in hope they will convert to organic because they really are excellent cheese makers.

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I always look forward to having friends for dinner, and it seems some time since we have. So I am looking forward, with some excitement, to Saturday night.

I really can’t say whether it is the planning and cooking, or the friends and social that I enjoy the most. I think a little of both. I love to cook, but always stick to my RULES:

  • Never cook something new that I haven’t cooked before;
  • Plan the menu around things I know I have, so there isn’t a big shopping list of ingredients I may never use again;
  • Pick a menu you can cook a good proportion in advance;
  • Use as much local and seasonal ingredients as you possibly can.

I cook things up in advance and even freeze things to defrost them later, because I want to enjoy myself too. Oh and only invite people who like dogs and cats. We have 3, dogs that is (and often a friends’ dog on a sleep-over) and 1 cat, soon to be 2. Not a breeding program, you understand, but we are looking for a new (or second-hand) cat  to join our lovely, friendly, family cat, Fernley. He used not to be alone and had a brother, Hugh, who mysteriously disappeared.

Fernley lives a strange and feline double life.  By day, he is our lovely cuddly knee warmer, but by night a trained and accomplished assassin, but we don’t like to talk about it.

With friends invited, the day looming, and my excitement building (what, I hear you say, she needs to get out more, well I really do enjoy all of this), it only leaves the actual work to do. Boo hiss!

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