Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Savoury Supper

Quite often, by the time I am walking home from work, other people are cooking their suppers. I love to walk along and smell all the savoury scents wafting from steamed up kitchen windows. One of the best compliments Carl has paid my cooking was when he came through the door and exclaimed 'I really hoped that was our dinner I could smell, and it is!'.

The supper that I have bubbling on the stove right now is not the most fragrant of dishes, but it is one that I love to cook, and I like to think that I would like to come home to. I could have sworn that I had shared this recipe with you before, but I have trawled my archives and cannot find a trace of it. So, do forgive me if I am repeating this, but here is how to make

Rice, Bacon and Cheese Savoury Supper Dish

Cook this when the afternoon melts into the twilight of evening earlier than you can believe is possible. Better for a day with brisk breeze or a hint of a chill in the air. Listen to Radio 4 while you are making it, and wear a flowery pinny.

Put 3 eggs on to boil (you can get away with 2 if that is all that you have in your pantry)

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan gently fry an onion until it is soft.

Throw in some snipped up bacon. My original scribbled recipe calls for 7oz, but usually I use 2 rashers, sometimes 3.

When the bacon smell is wafting around your kitchen, stir in 8oz of brown rice, then follow this with 1 1/2 pints chicken stock. Give it a good stir about, then put the lid on, turn the heat down low so it is just simmering, and put the timer on for 40 minutes.

By now, your eggs should be boiled, so run them under the cool tap, and save for later.

Make yourself a cup of tea, and go and curl up on the sofa with a good book, going through to stir the supper from time to time so it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan.

When the 40 minutes are up, turn the rice mixture into an ovenproof dish, and set the oven to a medium heat.

Peel the boiled eggs and slice them, then arrange on top of the rice.

Melt 1/2 oz butter in a small pan, and stir in 1tbsp of flour. Then slowly, slowly, add 1/4 pint of milk. Stirring, stirring, bring it to the boil, bubble for a few moments then turn out the heat. Season with pepper and nutmeg, and pour this over the rice and eggs.

Scatter 3tbsp breadcrumbs and 5oz grated cheese over the top of the sauce.

Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or you could grill it until the cheese bubbles.

This makes enough to serve two for supper tonight, and then will serve two again a few days later, this time perhaps with a sausage or two by the side. When you are washing up, don't forget to dry up using a tea towel that makes you smile! I think my most favourite tea towel is one that I was given when I got married, that has all the different wedding anniversaries on it. One of you who is kind enough to come and read my little blog asked about my idea of embroidering your intitials into the corner of your tea towels. The way I do it is with rather simple and rustic cross stitch, although having done a short course in crewel work, I did do one in satin stitch. You back stitch the outline of what you want to embroider, and then make stitches between each edge like the rungs of a ladder, only much closer together. That takes a lot of time though! For more tea towel loveliness, see here

and here

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Thoughts By Candlelight

It has been one of those days where the soft autumn afternoon seems to melt slowly into the evening. The light becomes half light then twilight, gloaming quietly into dark. This is one of my favourite times of day; a quiet 20 minutes all alone in our little flat, a candle burning brightly, and everything seems soft. Oftentimes, I bustle and start to get dinner ready. Sometimes, I sit with a cup of tea and just think, or read.

Tonight, I did not even put the kettle on. Tiredness seems settled into my bones, and the thought of filling up the kettle and setting it to boil all seems too much. And yet I am not sitting here drained, I am sitting here replete somehow, filled with the day and ready for bed. I will be taking with me the book I am reading for Book Club. I have said before how difficult I find Book Club books, and indeed, I very nearly didn't read this one at all. You see I was pretty sure I would be too tired to go out Friday, and I didn't much care for the look and feel of this book. But then I had a phone call today to say the lady who was going to host the meeting couldn't, and so as the unofficial leader, I suddenly had to agree to host it at mine...which meant reading the book. I started it on the bus on the way home, and after a bumpy first chapter, I am utterly in love with the book. It speaks to me deeply, and some of the ideas the writer has are ideas that are part of me. The turns of phrase are delicious. He uses a phrase which runs something like 'the sleeve of the evening sky was embroidered with flies' and I am so glad I discovered this writer.

Who is this writer? What is his book? Well he is Niall Williams, and the book is Only Say The Word. I fear I am not going to do it justice, but the narrator is trying to write, and we hear both the story of his boyhood and the unfolding story of having lost his wife. It sounds strange, but works beautifully. He has just gone to university to study English, and loves the same poets as I- especially Yeats. I want to read on and on and on, and am afraid I shall not be able to stop talking at Book Club!

It is not just reading I have been doing this evening but thinking too. We were eating some of the organic bread that we had in our Abel and Cole delivery, and I was struck by how filling it is, how heavy and rich it is. Not at all like ready sliced bread. It is made by hand, risen slowly, and baked in a wood oven. At around £1.50 a loaf, it is a touch more expensive than regular bread, but not much. I think it is easier to digest because it has been given time to rise, not forced to do it quickly to maximise profit through the aid of strange chemicals. Then it came to me, wouldn't it be wonderful if instead of labelling things with the price, we labelled them with the time it took to produce them? If chickens were priced in days not pounds, so we could better grasp how appalling it is to grow them faster than their legs can carry them. Dear Carl pointed out that people would want the fastest things because they are cheaper, but I like to think that not all of us would. That for us, those of us who love vintage things and cooking and knitting, even though it takes hours to knit what could be machine made in minutes, those of us who take little sips of tea, the things that take slightly longer are worth waiting for.

I wish you could be with me this evening. I would put my whistling kettle onto boil, spoon tea into the pot, and pick out my prettiest flowery mugs. We would sit here in the bright candlelight and perhaps work at knitting or crocheting, read favourite passages from books or poems aloud, and catch up with one another. Wherever you are, there is a cup of tea waiting for you here at my table!

Friday, 25 September 2009

Autumn Evening Ritual

I always feel slightly uncomfortable with the word has a ring of witchcraft about it! Until I find a better word for it, I use it to describe a lovely thing, in the manner of Puttery Treats at (think embroidering initials on tea towels, setting up a breakfast porridge tray and such scrumptious things) that I do regularly, and usually at the same kind of time.

I don't do them forever though, or the shine wears off. Sometimes it is good to retire one, even if it is just for a month or two or three, so there is time and room for a new one. The change of the seasons is perfect for this. One of my little rituals that I have started doing is to go round our little flat at about quarter past seven or thereabouts, and turn out all the lights, except for one. The one that I leave on is the lamp on my writing desk in the corner of our living room. Then I light candles all around the rest of the room. I could light them in the other rooms in the flat too, but I worry about leaving them unattended. I do have them at the ready though. There is a Yankee Candle in a jar by the pretty mirror on my dressing table, and a whole row of votive candle holders along the side of the bath. That way, when dear Carl comes home from work, he comes into a softly lit happy home. There is something magical about the flickering of candlelight, and it feels so good to have a break from just electrical lighting.

Other little things that I want to do for autumn, but more in the puttery treat line than rituals are to hang my autumn wreath on our door, and to buy some cinnamon syrup for coffee. The lovely Vintage Kitten visited from her scrumptious blog at to share her wonderful tip of using cloves and candles together- check the comments on my previous posts to read it! Thanks VK! I shall definitely be trying that. Whilst I was in town today, I bought some thick tights from Marks and Sparks in a dusky purple shade. I love that the name of the colour is Damson. So much more evocative than just 'purple'. I plan to wear them with a jumper in the same shade, a black skirt and black ballet pumps. I saw some wonderful ballet pumps in Dorothy Perkins this morning- they had pompoms on the toes- but alas they did not have them in my size. I would really like a pair though!

I will leave you with dusky thoughts of autumn leaves and cinnamon coffee and the scent of cloves wafting across a candle-bright room. I hope you are having a scrumptious evening!

How Long Was I Gone For?

I ventured forth into town again today, this time to meet my Mum. As you know, we usually go on an adventure on our Friday off, but I am still too sleepy for such things, wonderful as they may be. Then Mum came up with a great idea- we would meet in my town rather than hers, and have breakfast-brunch instead of lunch, which meant I could go home and have a good sleep in the afternoon. Bliss!

The bliss of being outside in the autumnish morning (there is not that little nip in the air so characteristic of a true autumn morning!) has not worn off, and nor has just being among people. We had breakfast in Cafe Rouge...a pot of tea for her, a latte for me, and a Croque Madame apiece. It is so relaxed in there, and every time I go in, I think I must find out what cd they play so I can have it in the background at home, close my eyes and pretend I am in Paris.

After that, we went for a very gentle stroll around the shops. And here I had pause to blink. By my calculations, a week ago yesterday was my last proper day out, and then I was in the house until yesterday...but to look at the shops, I think I must surely have been at home for a month or more! For suddenly, there is Christmas, everywhere! Mince pies, gift wrap, name it, it is there to buy.

Now I have rather conflicted feelings about all this. If truth be told, I have been working on Christmas gifts and cards at home for a while now. But in my defense, nearly every gift I am giving this year is home made. And most of them are not Christmassy in themselves. So I don't feel like I am doing Christmas things when I am sitting and knitting in the evening, or going to the shops to buy a square of white felt..for people who craft, we need to start early if we want to really enjoy the making of the gifts, rather than end up in an awful flurry towards the end.

The last few years, I have been able to really enjoy the Christmas season because I started planning early. It is blissful to sit in Starbucks sipping a peppermint bliss hot chocolate, knowing everything that needs to be done has been done.

But...I really don't want to see overtly Christmas things on the shelves in September. The Co-Op near my work had advent calendars in August! I cannot see the point (although I must confess that I have not tried very hard!) of having mince pies for sale which go out of date before it even gets to November, let alone Christmas! The most ridiculous thing of all is a cardboard sign for a display of Cadbury gold coins and snowmen with the wording 'Putting the Magic Back Into Christmas'. Now I know Mr Cadbury couldn't hear me, but I really wanted to scream 'no you are not, you are draining it away!' How can children be excited and really enjoy the build up to Christmas when it starts before Halloween? How can any of us?

The last Christmas or two I have followed the scrumptious plan at which is just right for me. The lovely Alison guides you through putting together a card list complete with addresses that you can use year after year, sitting down and having a good think about things early in the season, and then doing scrumptious things little by little until you wind up on Christmas Eve with a house which is all of a twinkle with the sparkle of candlelight and happiness, mulled wine in hand, peace in your mind.

I am lucky enough to be friends with the lovely Midori Green in real life as well as blog life. She has written a lovely post about planning ahead for Christmas. We both have similar thoughts-if I had to put mine succinctly, I would say that I am all for planning ahead, I just don't want to be bludgeoned with Christmas every time I go to the shops from September onwards! Read her lovely post here:

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Autumn Morning

When I woke up this morning, I still had the whispers of the headache that started last Thursday, and still felt very sleepy....but more than any of that, delicious happiness in the knowledge that I am now officially out of quarantine! I am going to take it very, very gently, but just knowing that I can go outside and mix with other people is lovely, if a little overwhelming. I was talking to my sweet friend Adrian last night, who had swine flu two weeks before me, and he said that although he craved human company (and he was in a worse position than me, because he lives alone) he also felt like he had lost some of his confidence and found the thought of going out with all those people a bit daunting.

So I am going to arm myself with my reddest lipstick (the first time I have thought about makeup in a week, let alone wear any!) and take a gentle walk in the autumn sunshine to procure a pile of crisp new magazines that I will then work my way through this afternoon with a steaming pot of tea.

I must concentrate hard on not chattering too much to the poor girl at the checkout or the man who sells the chrysanthemums! Musnt't scare anyone! But so, so ready for fresh air in my lungs, breeze in my hair and sun on my face. I have a feeling that I shall be repairing home for an afternoon nap though! I still find the smallest effort leaves me so tired. The good thing is that I have learned to appreciate naps. Before I was poorly, I was firmly in the camp that saw why other people liked naps, but could not like them myself. I always found myself a little groggy and sick feeling when I woke up. Now though, I can snuggle and snooze with the best of them!

Wishing you all the most scrumptious of autumn mornings!

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Swine Flu...

I suppose really, when you consider my job, it was really only a matter of time before it happened....and when you consider that we were having a fierce debate the other day about whether we would want the vaccine or not, really, it was asking for trouble...

Since Thursday night when I came home with a head that was not my own, I have spent much of the time sleeping and aching and sleeping and taking Tamiflu and wondering when my head would become my own again. They don't tell you that the Tamiflu makes you seasick. Or that even as the flu starts to pass, you will be left utterly, ridiculously drained. I am both incredibly vexed and a little amused at myself...I get up to make a cup of tea and find myself yawning and in need of a nap!

But today I have made it into clothes for the first time, and am sitting on the sofa instead of being buried in bed. I am still napping lots, but I have the energy to come online! I have so much to catch up with you all about....there are little things, like the pretty autumn leaves that I have been snapping, and bigger things like the back garden afternoon tea we held for my Mum's birthday. I am so worried that when I sit down to write some posts, that I will forget things that were important at the time. I am going to have to look back over the photos that I have been taking to remind myself of what happened!

Even without a fluey head, I find that time seems to pass so quickly...things that I have been looking forward to, savouring the thought of suddenly happen, and before I know it, it is a week later. How does it happen?

I don't want this to be a gloomy post though, so here are some happy thoughts...I have a beautiful bunch of Honesty in a cheerful red vase which looks so beautiful to me. I will have to take a photograph so you can enjoy it too. It is a really abundant bunch, and it only cost 50p from the WI market last week! I want to keep it as it is for a long time, but when I was blog visiting just now, I saw a beautiful thing where someone had glued individual papery honesty circles into heart shapes to hang up. So pretty! The only thing that would make this bunch even nicer would be teeny tiny fairy lights twinkling amongst them!

The air is scented with leek at the that doesn't sound as scrumptious as it really is! For a while now I have been thinking about how we do our shopping and cooking, and have tried out several ways of doing it, from a monster monthly supermarket delivery to buying a little bit every day. Today a nice man from Abel and Cole delivered our first organic mixed vegetable and fruit box, and it looks utterly scrumptious. I want to post about this in detail, so am trying to restrain myself from talking too much about it here, but oh, it all looks so, so good! (And they included oranges, just as I was thinking that I should be eating plenty of vitamin C so I don't go down with anything else!).

I will leave you now as I feel another nap coming on...but I will be back, and with pictures too! But before I go, now that we are properly into Autumn, I am starting to think about a signature scent for our little flat, and a signature flavour too. I think that the flavour is going to be cinnamon- think cinnamon lattes, cinnamon on my morning porridge, cinnamon biscuits....but what shall I have to burn in my oil burner, and drop onto the wicks of our candles? I think that my signature autumn colour is probably going to be brown (predictable, I know!) with dashes of pumpkin thrown in.

I would love to hear about your ideas!

I hope you are all well and nobody else is suffering from flu, colds, sniffles or other afflictions that stop you enjoying these scrumptious Autumn days. If you are, remember, a drop of olbas oil on a vintage hanky, and a dash of vaseline around your nose so you don't end up doing a Rudolph impression!