Monday, 21 December 2015

Last-minute Christmas cake

In the spring I made a load of marmalade from my homegrown lemons. I didn't chop the peel very finely and the man wot I live with was not impressed. He's the marmalade eater and he hasn't eaten the stuff. What to do? Delia Smith's Christmas book has a last-minute Christmas mincemeat cake. Well, I've made my mincemeat and know from experience that it will disappear quickly enough over the holiday period so why not substitute marmalade instead? This is such a quick and easy recipe.

450g marmalade
225g sifted flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
150g dark brown sugar
150g softened butter
175g mixed dried fruit, (I added some dried cranberries for a bit of colour.)
50g walnuts
3 eggs.

Mix all the ingredients together thoroughly and pour into a 20cm cake tin that has been lined with greaseproof paper. Bake 1 hour 20 minutes approx at gas mark 3. leave to cool in the tin before turning out.
I added some blanched almonds and marzipan stars to the surface before cooking.
I should have kept it in the oven for a little while longer because as it cooled the centre dropped slightly. How annoying - I hope it will be okay when it's cut!

Friday, 30 October 2015


Hay-on-Wye is lovely small Welsh town close to the border with England. It is known as the 'Town of Books' with over thirty bookshops in it's narrow old streets selling both new and second-hand books. Every summer the town holds the Hay Festival of Literature, ten days of talks and entertainments. It's a lovely place to visit and impossible to leave without buying a book (or few!)
This week the windows are dressed for Halloween with a paper moon and a bat flying across the display in Richard Booth's glorious bookshop on Lion Street. He is the person responsible for transforming this small market town into the world's first book town. It's definitely something to crow about!
The exterior of the shop is full of interesting ornamentation
and it is hard not to be tempted inside.
Upstairs the Folio Society Reading room has comfy chairs
and for Halloween, a Dracula cushion to lean against!

Other shops are equally pleasurable
and sell not only books
all manner of covetable things.
 There's a pair of matching corner cupboards from France in the window of Llewelyn and Company.
"Where can we put them?"
"We can't, we haven't got enough room."
"Oh, what a pity!"
We have only got enough room for the tiny furniture on these shelves.

Another shop is selling 'best quality old tat'!
There is nothing remotely tatty about the greengrocer's shop. 

I look with pleasure at what is on offer, it's a delight to see local produce, quince and Ribston Pippin apples, a name that I remember from childhood, long since banished from our supermarket shelves.
A large red apple called 'American Mother' is for sale. It's a variety that I've never heard of and I'm just remarking on the fact when the supplier happens to walk by. The shopkeeper comes out, amused at our enthusiastic conversation. He can't promise to always introduce me to his suppliers, he tells me, although he'll do his best!
 It's market day
and the town is busy.

But Hallowe'en is coming
so we better get home before dark!

Friday, 23 October 2015


Have you seen this film yet? It has received a fair bit of publicity and good reviews, although I've learnt not to rely too much on what other people say so far as both film and books are concerned. But the subject is one that I care about and Carey Mulligan is an excellent actress so it was on my list of films to see. In the event it did not disappoint.
Carey Mulligan has the central role of Maud, a young laundry worker in London who is gradually drawn into the cause for women's rights. (Meryl Streep has only a fleeting appearance as Emmeline Pankhurst.) It was well filmed. Of course, the camera lens is seductive and even squalor can look rather lovely when seen on screen! Some scenes in the film I recall from my childhood, the rows of terrace houses where the washing hung across the street. The fight for women's rights is such a recent history. How I would love to be able to talk to my grandmothers and hear what their opinions were! My paternal grandmother was a factory worker like Maud, working in the woollen mills of the West Riding of Yorkshire and I recall her well as an intelligent and quite formidable character.
My maternal grandmother, after whom I am named, was university educated and became a teacher. They were very different women who had been given greatly contrasting opportunities in life. Members of the Women's Suffrage Movement were from all levels of society but I have no knowledge as to whether either of my grandmothers were active in fighting for women's rights.
In the film it ended badly for Maud, as it did in real life for many women.  I hope that you will go and see this film. If you do, take your daughters and grand-daughters with you.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Corfu in black and white


Corfu Town

We hadn't visited Corfu since the last century when we had holidayed here a number of times and loved everything about the island not only the beach life but also the beautiful inland villages, the architecture of town and the friendliness of the people. We were prepared for change and disappointment but happily it wasn't the case. We walked along the Liston on a quiet Sunday morning while a cricket match was in progress on the green.
Our favourite bakery was still in operation, although closed on this day. We've sat outside here on many occasions tucking into delicious, freshly baked pastries.
Another place we looked for was the 17th century Venetian well and we wandered about the small streets for quite a while before managing to locate it tucked away in what is now a colourful and quiet  corner of the town.

It has changed little over time.
We last visited in May 1999
and had our photos taken
so, of course, we had to do that again!
On comparing these photos Himself was pleased to note that His belly now looks smaller. But not yet small enough says I - a case of the pot calling the kettle black!
The state of some of the buildings reminded me of Havana, in a perilous condition but still very beautiful.

We love Corfu!