Tuesday, 28 March 2006

Fishcakes For Tea

A while ago, I had dinner with dear Carl and my lovely friend Lisa at a place called the Cellar. This is a tiny little bar-restaurant under ground! Steep little steps lead down to it, and then the whole place feels slightly wonky, but delightful. Well when we went there, I had the most amazing fishcakes with mango salsa- and they were wonderful.

I got home last night with a real craving for salmon, so I set to, and whipped up my own version of those fish cakes. And without being immodest, it was rather yum!

For the fishcakes:

600g potatoes, peeled and cubed up small
260g salmon fillet
2 spring onions
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
2 tsp Dijon mustard
a slosh of milk

For the Pea Puree:

120g frozen peas
3 dollops greek yoghurt
a large sprinkle of dried mint (I never seem to have any fresh!)

Boil the potatoes for about 15 minutes until they are tender.

While this is going on, put the salmon in a single layer in a saucepan; just cover with milk.

Bring to the boil, then simmer for about 4 minutes until the salmon is cooked.

Remove the salmon, flake into pieces, and allow to cool a few minutes.

Drain the potatoes, and mash really well. Lots of fork action! You need the mash quite dry, but you could add a dribble of the milk you poached the salmon in if you want.

Stir into the mash the mustard, tomato sauce, spring onions, and half the salmon.

Add the other half of the salmon. Try not to break the fish up too much- you want big chunks.

Flour your hands, and tip some flour onto a plate. Take handfulls of the mixture, and shape into fishcakes, then dust with flour. You should get about 8...although I got 7!

Fry in a little oil, butter, or frylight spray for about 3 minutes on each side.

While they are frying, boil the peas rapidly for a few minutes until they are cooked, drain, tip into a food processor (oh, how I love my Mulitquick!) and blitz for a few seconds. Dollop in some greek yoghurt and mint, blitz again. Taste, and add more yoghurt or mint as you see fit.

I piled up three fishcakes in a sort of triangle the middle of the plate, then sort of dolloped the pea puree on top, and then on top of that, a slice of lemon to squeeze.

If you have a go, enjoy!

Cross Stitch Catch Up

With all my excitement yesterday I forgot to post about my adventures at the cross stitch exhibition at Olympia, London.

Although the day dawned dark and drizzly, we really did have the best time (I went with a lovely lady from work, Apryl. We have been going to this together for the past five years or so). I love going on the train down to London-although I must confess that I was half imagining myself to be on one of those lovely vintage steam trains from the other weekend!

I had in my mind that I wanted to buy a kit to do a picture of a rose- you know in historic houses and Country Living magazine you often see cushions or rugs or tapestries, with beautiful big roses on them. Slightly old fashioned, but glorious to me. Happily, half way round I spotted a miniature needlepoint kit to stitch a couple of roses, some lily of the valley and bluebells. It is really fine work, there are 28 holes per inch on the canvas, which makes for teeny stitches! But because it is needlepoint it is quicker than cross stitch. I have only done the border so far, but it is rather delicious and relaxing to stitch. I love that it is in miniature too!

I also bought a pattern for a beautiful sampler, but not a sampler in the traditional sense. It is sort of rustic naive American style- really lovely and I can't wait to get stitching! Go have a peek at http://www.bentcreek.com

I also treated myself to a new pair of embroidery scissors- my little snips! Last but not least, and very dear to my heart, there was the Linden Lady (actually a man!) who sold me some delightful violet creams- the best sort, that have a crystallized violet petal on top.

I also did a stitching workshop while I was there, which was so relaxing. There was a harpist playing, and we just sat and stitched and listened to this wonderful music. It was such bliss. The thing I love about kits and workshops is that everything you need is there...you don't have to worry about matching colours or finding the right stuff, or having a pile of left over craft stuff, or carving out some time..it is all just there. I cannot recommend anything so good for relaxation (well, maybe apart from a massage!) as finding a really good craft workshop to do with a friend for an hour or so, and just immersing yourself.

The whole day was so blissfully peaceful- although it has left me with one of those odd urges ,to learn the harp!

Monday, 27 March 2006

A Package Of Pleasure

http://www.dailyparcels.blogspot.comAs I skipped out of the house to work on Thursday, the lovely postman pulled up in his van. I had a sneaking feeling, a little flutter of hope that it might be for me! And when I got home- it was! My Seasonal Care Package from the lovely, lovely Kristy http://www.vintagepleasure.typepad.com had arrived. I had such a happy hour unpacking, I can barely describe and do it justice, but I am going to try!

I lit a candle and sat back on the sofa with this lovely box on my knee, and when I opened it, snuggly inside was a large stripey gift bag (aren't stripes lovely?) and inside that, were an abundance of the most wonderful packages. Each one was done up in white tissue paper (tissue paper! I love sending things wrapped in tissue paper!) tied with string, and in the bow of the string was a dried rose! By the end I had enough to fill a small vase, and oh, how spoiling it was to slowly open each one, smooth the paper into a pile, and then, the gasps at the wonder of these lovely things!

Kristy had taken as her theme A Wedding Breakfast (spring..easter..eggs..breakfast...also I am getting married next year, so wedding breakfast) and I can hardly begin to describe the things I unwrapped! There was the softest, softest embroidered vintage tablecloth, a vintage juicer, napkin rings, a glorious tin covered with violets which are my favourite flower, and then inside the tin, a jar of gourmet jam, with the most wonderful cover on- all trimmed with buttons! As well as this, she has made us a wonderful monogrammed cozy each, trimmed with vintage material and buttons. Oh, and there was real proper breakfast tea, loose, to go in my pot, and so wonderful, a little pile of vintage wedding invitations, and gift tags! Oh how wonderful to read through them, to imagine the excitement of the bride as she chose her invitations, the guests looking for the perfect gift! To wonder what gift each card accompanied, to wonder if the bride and groom are still alive and happy today, even if they still have some of their wedding presents still.

So Kristy, all I can say is a heartfelt thank you to you for such a blissful package! And so much pleasure to come- I cannot wait to have my first breakfast with dear Carl using our new pretties. I cannot wait for someone to ask me where I got the beautiful tin from!

Oh! And I nearly forgot, the lovely parma violets! I crunched a whole packet while unpacking the lovely parcels! Delicious!

I am having so much fun putting together the seasonal care package for Kristy. These swaps are so wonderful- I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to open such amazing packages, and for it not to be your birthday, or christmas- just because! And equally, to plan and plot and pack a parcel of pure pleasure and frivolity! To send such happiness off through the post. I know I am gushing, but really, it is lovely!

This lovely swap was organised by the wonderful Ms Robyn http://www.dailyparcels.blogspot.com go read her lovely blog and take inspiration from her to keep our postmen out of mischief by giving them plenty of loveliness to deliver for us!


Thursday, 23 March 2006

Library Bug

Oh dear, oh dear.

There is this bug that stalks the shelves of the library. It hides, then pounces on unsuspecting library workers. I had done pretty well at avoiding it so far this year, but zap, it got me, which is why I have been away from here. (And I missed it!)

I am better now, a bit wobbly, but fully alert to dodge it next time it tries to pounce!

Now first things first, thank you lovely, for the vegetable soup recipe, I am going to go to the farm shop Saturday, and try it out for lunch.

Also, on the way into work Tuesday (I got into work then got sent right back home again!) I did see through the haze, the most wonderful waterfall of violets, coming over the side of a low brick wall. The bricks are kind of grey, and there are lots of plants growing near them, but these violets were such a delicious bit of colour, I wanted to share them with you all.

Now I am nearly besides myself with excitement, as I am going down to London tomorrow, for the Cross Stitch Exhibition. And I am doing a workshop! I am a bit vague as to what the workshop will involve, but I do know that it is by one of my favourite cross stitch designers, (Ginger Tom) and we have to take a two inch by two inch photo. So I am taking Rouge. Rouge is a wonderfully beautiful lady on a vintage postcard that the glorious Alison from Brocante Home sent me shortly after I started writing Mimi Says for her. (I must finish off the one I am working on!) I dont want her spoiled though, so I am going to photocopy her.

The one treasure I want to come home with is an old fashioned rose to embroider. I see them mainly in needlepoint, which I dont do...yet..but I am thinking if I can cross stitch, maybe I can do that!

I will be away from my computer for a day or so- but will be back soon!


Monday, 20 March 2006

Finding A Mutual Interest

Now, I promise you, we really are not train spotters at all. But on Sunday afternoon, while I was chugging through the countryside on a sweet little steam train, I realised that this is the third railway museum we have visited!

This one is in Chappel, and it is the sweetest thing. You see, the whole thing has been restored to its former glory, as it were, when trains were steam, and there were separate waiting rooms for ladies and men...vintage loveliness really. And the thing is, one platform is still used by the modern trains! How wonderful it would be to arrive, not knowing that the station is also a muesum, and to think for one moment you have travelled back in time.

I think as far as lovely Carl goes, it calls to him in the way that barbeques call to the caveman in him. He loves all the mechanics of the trains, and is quite happy to look round for that. I adore seeing old suitcases and trunks piled up, the social history I suppose really. And we both love having rides on these wonderful old trains. I must admit, that as the steam rolled across the platform, in my mind I was wearing nylons and a hat and gloves (well I was wearing a hat and gloves, but these were wooly ones! I mean more hat and gloves because that is what ladies wear!) but anyway, I like to imagine I am back then...and so, apart from freezing my toes off, we both spend a happy afternoon together.

I had a ridiculously early night last night, having got up ridculously early to watch the Grand Prix. It is so nice to be snuggled down in the warm, with a good book, just enjoying being in bed. Before I got into bed I burnt some violet oil, so the room smelt delicious.

Other fun this weekend...I have been planning and plotting away at my vintage care package swap for Kristy http://www.vintagepleasure.typepad.com I am so enjoying this! It is lovely to plan a package of sheer frivolity just for the fun of it. And as a bonus for me, I have another delicious blog to add to my daily round of reads! I am down to London on Friday for the Cross Stitch and Craft Exhibition at Olympia...I go every year with a friend from work. I won't be sending this parcel out until I have been there...

Saturday, 18 March 2006

Vegetable Soup

My Mum makes the most wonderful vegetable soup, but uses a pressure cooker, of which I am far too afraid to contemplate! All that steam! And the noise hurts my ears.

I have been reading your lovely blogs as always, and many of you often seem to have some vegetable soup bubbling away, filling your homes with the scent of comfort.

So, what is your recipe for wonderful vegetable soup? If anyone is willing to share, I would be most grateful, and will be tying on my Cath Kidston apron to try out any recipes!

Thank you!

Spreading the Craft!

Oh, oh, oh! As if I was not excited enough about my May Bath trip, the lovely comments and emails I have been sent have made me even more excited about it! As if this is not enough, I am going to pick up a Bath Guide Book from the travel section of the library at lunch time. (As much as we are told Saturday is just a normal working day, it feels almost like half term to me. And often this is the day I choose my books for myself...Conscious choosing that is, not just hoarding all the lovely books that come back across the counter, or I stumble upon while shelf tidying!)

Now yesterday was my day off (as I am working today) and I went back home to see my family. The lovely thing for me is that dear Carl's new job is in the town where I lived until I left home to move in with him, so now, instead of rattling over on the bus, I ride in with him, then he meets me at my parents after he has finished work, we have dinner with them and spend the evening there, before heading home.

Mum and I had the most wonderful time in the florists...it is at the top of the town, and smells heavenly. It is not a 'fashionable' florist, but instead is crammed with every beautiful, heavenly scented flower you can imagine. And they have a glass cupboard full of dreamy handmade chocolates...I don't know how I resisted the Violet Creams! (To illustrate further how scrumptious this shop is, the boxes for the chocolates are cut out of flowery cardboard and tied with curling ribbon in a complementary colour!) We also went off for a bit of a shop, where I can only proclaim, bargains abounded! I bought some ginger coffee from Whittard (very warming!), a bottle of lavender bubble bath, an oil burner (glorious smell of violets in our bedroom last night)! and a blue dish that has a little well for dip, and then a space for crudites or crisps....for under £10!

It was so very cold out though, that we needed a warming dinner. Do give the recipe that follows a go. It sounds like it cannot possibly be as delicious as it is, or smell so heartening as this does.

Thinly slice two med-large peeled potatoes, and two med-large onions. In an ovenproof dish, make a layer of onion, a layer of potato, and so on until you have run out of vegetables- finish with a layer of potato. Pour a cup of bovril over, gently, cover lightly with foil, then bake in a long slow oven. I put it in at about 175oC for about an hour, then take off the foil, tip over a can of macaroni cheese with ham (I know, I know, but trust me!) then bake for a further fifteen minutes or so. We usually have this withsausagess and peas, and it really is bliss. It is even more wonderful the next day, so, as there is never any left, I sometimes make it to the point of taking off the foil, leave it overnight in the fridge, then put the macaroni cheese on and bake it to finish it off. Yum....

Anyway, back to the main point of all this, which is, after the last bit of dinner was eaten up, we were all warm and full, then, I got to spread the craft! Mum is so wonderful- she knits, makes her own clothes, curtains, wonderful greetings cards, does flowers...she is quite wonderful. But she has not crocheted for years, and anyone who has taught themselves to crochet for a book will surely understand how incomprehensible the instructions can be. Double crochet twice in the first five chain space?! What?! So we spent a happy hour together crocheting flowers, going through chains, single crochet, doubles, trebles, that kind of thing. And it was lovely, even though it was not teaching exactly as Mum had done it before, but it waslovelyy passing on a skill, communicating the craft as it were. Really satisfying.

And the funny thing I have noticed about crochet? The English and American terms use the same words but mean different things! What we call a double, Americans would think of as a treble. What they call a double we think of as a single! Curious, but delightful I think. I love how different countries are unique in more than just language and currency, but things like customs and dress sizing and so on too. I like the way things are familiar in concept yet different, making everything even more fairy tale like when you travel. (I remember being in France, desperate for a cup of tea, and having to ask for milk in it, which was made with powder and hot water!)

I must away to tend to the microfilm reader...it is winding back all on its own rather like it is possessed!

Wednesday, 15 March 2006

Bath Bliss

Oh, the bliss! A Coach Excursion company in my area is doing a day trip to Bath mid may. I am going! Well, I have not got as far as booking the ticket, but I have talked a friend into going with me. We are planning a lovely walk, tea in the pump rooms, and, at the Jane Austen Centre, there is a gift shop selling all sorts of vintage fripperies and lovelinesses! I can barely wait!

I want to go through the catalogue and see what else is on offer now! It occurred to me that if I was a visitor to England, there would be so many places I want to visit. Because I live here, I forget to wake up that dormant spark.

Tuesday, 14 March 2006

Playing Catchup

Phew! Where does the week go? I cannot believe nearly a whole week has gone by since I posted last. But here I am, ready to catch up.

Firstly, it is cold here. The real kind of cold that makes you catch your breath and hurts your jaw when you walk into work in the morning. My morning walk to the library has yielded some beautiful sights. I cross a bridge over the river Can, then walk alongside it through the park. The far bank has had only yellow crocuses for ages (croci?!) but suddenly, over the weekend, the yellow that peppers the grass has been intersperesed with violet and white flowers too, and looks wonderful. If it was not so chilly out I would walk down one lunch time, and cross over to that bank so I could enjoy them properly.

Also, yesterday, when I went to get a newspaper, there was this glorious pigeon. He was sitting so puffed up, so hugged down into himself agaisnt the cold, and had the most wonderful colours. In one light he had turquoise, and in another, purple. It was almost like he was wearing a scarf around his neck against the chill.

I have been knitting Easter Chicks still, I have a knitting bag full of them awaiting little ribbon bonnets and bows. I have also been crocheting away as I started a blanket last week for our bed. The square I am using is an Irish Sow Thistle, which is wonderful in that it looks pretty but is relatively easy, and best of all is that you join the squares as you crochet them, so no big sewing up session awaits me, lurking!

I have had some adventures in the kitchen. The mozarella chicken and basil ravioli was nice but did not work..the ravioli cushions misbehaved greatly. But having got the new issue of Country Kitchen magazine, I have resolved to make my own Hot Cross Buns this year for Good Friday breakfast. I may just have to have a practice this week...

You know what I was thinking? I was thinking how scrumptious it would be if we had a virtual vintage tea party. I so often think that there are so many of you I would love to have a cup of tea with. It would be lovely if we all agreed a time, sat down with our best china, and enjoyed a cup of our favourite tea with some little delicious morsel, and thought lovely vintage thoughts...

Wednesday, 8 March 2006


I am sitting at my desk with what can only be described as frankly scary hair (see what the rain does?!) and I am utterly transfixed with delight. Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day is quite the most delicious book, and I am sorry to have finished it. If you can lay your hands on a copy, do....

Loveliness In The Rain

I walked to walk this morning in the rain, splosh, splosh, splosh!

It was actually rather lovely. Most of the walk into work is a long straight road, with a slight slope- not enough to be a hill, but enough to notice. I walk from the high end where I live to the low end where the town is that the library is in.

I spotted this morning...

...a glorious patch of snowdrops amongst the grass outside an old house.

...a rather fabulous clear umbrella with pink stripes of varying shade

...on the bridge over the river, all the rain was falling in beautiful patterns. Like fish kissing the water surface!

...a pair of ducks splodging about on the path through the park. It looked like he was wearing wellies his legs were so orange!

I hope everyone is having a beautiful morning whatever the weather!

Tuesday, 7 March 2006

Curtain Call

If this post is a little disjointed to read, that is because I typed it all out yesterday, and then blogger said that it had lost its connection to the server, and, vamoosh! My words all disappeared like the proverbial puff of smoke! So, here it is again!

This past weekend was spent in a state of domestic bliss! Well, from Saturday evening 5.30 pm when I left work for the day! We saw a play in the church hall in Maldon- my friend directed and produced it. I was very impressed- they had written their own story but used show songs in it. Then off to see Mum and Dad. Mum has just finished making us the most glorious curtains for our bedroom- they are a pale but vibrant green, with rusty orange oak leaves and yellow swirls all over. I know that does not sound glorious, but oh, oh they are! And now they are hung, our bedroom seems so much more perfect. There is a white fabric blind, then on the windowsill my white pottery chamber stick and candle, crystal vase, then our curtains. The light in the room seems much more rich now. Yesterday, I went out and bought daffodils for the bedroom and living room- they just finish a room, I think.

Sunday was farmers market day. Oh, how I love the farmers market. We have a big one the first Sunday of each month, and a few stall holders come on a Friday too. Buy of the day came from the pesto man. He gave us pesto to try which was divine, and showed us Jimmy Docherty's (of Jimmy's Farm on tv) latest cookbook- and there inside is this lovely mans very own pesto recipe! I bought some buffalo mozzarella from him too- it is made in Rome and his friend drives it back to England every week. So the mozzarella I bought (and ate!) Sunday had been made in Rome only the Monday before! I was strangely delighted with this! Best of all he is going to be at the market each Friday...mmmm....

We had dinner with Carls parents Sunday..and borrowed their tumble drier! So Sunday evening was spent curled up in my lovley soft dressing gown in my bedroom with Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day...which I am adoring! And I am taking a ridiculous amount of pleasure in opening and closing the curtains each day!

One last thing before I go...if anyone else has bought this months BBC Good Food magazine, I made the spring fish pie last night, and it was amazing...give it a go!

Saturday, 4 March 2006

Hot Chocolate- At Last!

At last! The hot chocolate recipe. I knew there was something I meant to post earlier. This makes enough for two. I normally drink skimmed milk in my tea, but I have found that semi skimmed works best in this recipe- but I don't think the world will fall apart if you don't have any!


1 pint of organic milk
4oz good quality dark chocolate...think Green and Blacks!
The peel of half an orange, or the whole peel of a satsuma, roughly torn up.
1/2 tsp instant coffee
1//2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg.

Warm the milk gently in a saucepan, along with the orange peelings, coffee and nutmeg. Break the chocolate into chunks and stir in, until melted. Bring to the boil and simmer lightly for 10 minutes, then remove the orange peel, and pour into warmed glasses.

I think this would work nicely with a whisper of cointreau, but I have not tried it yet. It tastes of a medieval Christmas in my mind. I don't really think it needs any cream or anything on top, it is just scrumptious as it is. Not something I would make every day, but when it is cold out, or I want to feel cozy and indulged, this is what I make.


A Bowl of Comfort

I have had a few days off work, which explains why I have not been blogging (no computer at home, sigh!).

Thursday was marvellous- I had seen lovely Alisons delicious chocolate cake recipe at http://brocantehome.com, and wanted to make it as a welcome home cake for Carl. So I wandered into town, got my haircut, Easy Living Magazine (with free Cath Kidston makeup bag!), the ingredients for the cake, and meandered home again. About five minutes from home, the sky turned opaque, and I was surrounded by whirling, swirling snow. So pretty to be out in it, but also know I was so close to home!

We were not sure exactly what time Carl would be home, but his flight was at 6ish, so we thought he would be home between 8 and 9, depending on blizzards, traffic and so on! So I needed a light but filling yummy dinner that would make the flat smell comforting and nice- I settled on homemade bread, and chicken soup. This chicken soup really is comfort in a bowl. The recipe I used I learnt at school, and have tweaked it a bit over the years.

If you are making the soup from scratch, chop up two chicken breasts, or the equivalent of about this much in meat from leg portions or whatever, and cook in an ounce of butter over a gentle heat in a saucepan. When they are cooked through, but not dried out and tough, sprinkle over an ounce of plain flour, then add 250mls of milk and 250mls of chicken stock (made with a good quality cube). Add a good grinding of pepper, and bring to the boil, simmer gently, stirring from time to time, and after ten minutes, you are done.

My more usual method of doing this is to make it a day or two after I have roasted a chicken. I save the equivalent of two breasts worth of meat (and the good thing is it can be all the little nibbly bits, not necessarily the pretty bits!), and I also boil the carcass in lots of water and reduce it down to make chicken stock. When I use this method, I just heat the chicken through in the butter, then dissolve the stock cube in the stock and proceed from there.

I tend to use the first method when I have not thought in advance, and have a sudden urge or need for chicken soup comfort in a bowl, and the second method I use more often, and when I am planning out my menus for the week.

Wednesday, 1 March 2006

I got all the way home...

and realised I had left the chocolate I bought to make chocolate-orange hot chocolate with was still on my desk! So I contented myself with brandy in warm milk instead, but would rather have had the hot chocolate. Then when I got out my knitting, I discovered the chocolate in my knitting bag where I had slipped it so I would not forget it...

Upshot is the hot chocolate went unmade, so I didn't get out the recipe...but I will post it just as soon as I make it!

My lovely, lovely postman left me my latest eBay purchase- a pair of English rose tea towels in blue- one has Kidston-esque roses over it, the other little polka dots. They make my kitchen cheerful!