Falling in love with shiny!

 

I am not a Bree Van-de-Kamp, the Desperate Housewife with the perfect home, but there are times when I realise that I need to do something about the layers of dust and the kitchen floor appears to be changing colour!
 Housework is something that I seem to avoid – yet oddly enough when I spend time cleaning I actually find I enjoy it. (yes you did read that correctly, the word enjoy and housework in the same sentence!)
I have fallen in love with sparkly, and it is very easy to achieve, takes no elbow grease and is not hazardous to health. It is a simple mix of vinegar and bicarbonate of soda.

 

This is not my kitchen but one that is set up in the grounds of the Weald and Down Museum in nearby West Dean, I thought it illustrates to me just how much simpler and easier housework has become. Hot water at the turn of a tap – washing machines and electric kettles, it has never been an easier time to be a housewife. I believe that simple household products that have seen years of use. This little kitchen set up goes back to early in the 1900s.

 

Looking at the simple ingredients that were at the disposal of the housewife in her struggle to keep the house free from infection – it  made me ponder just how far we have come to rely on the ‘selling power of science’ We trust the cleaning products that abound on the supermarket shelf are safe and effective to use.These companies are in business to make money, they use enough science to convince us that their product will be the best, and easiest to use.
There are no restrictions on cleaning products for the home it may surprise you they are able to sell these above what would be considered a health risk if it were sold commercially. There have been links with air fresheners and cancer risks, and I believe that if our bodies cough to expel something that has been sprayed into an aerosol into our smallest room then it is pretty likely the substance we are ingesting might not be in good health.
Its easy to get everything sparkly, just spray with vinegar and sprinkle over bicarbonate! You can scrub a little, then wash down with water. Buff and sit back and admire a lovely shine! It lasts for a few days too. No coughing, no nasty chemicals, gentle on the purse too!

ttfn x

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Butter whirls Recipe

Oh my! the weather has changed considerably in the last few days, gone are the balmy sunny days of September with all the fruitful abundance, to the chill wet rain of October – I want to spend time in my warm, kitchen listening to the rain and hail splat against the window, enhancing the cosiness of baking and domestic bliss. 
A dear friend of mine was having a coffee morning so I made these butter whirls to take along, they are so easy to make and they look so pretty. 
150g of softened butter
50g icing sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla paste
100g of plain flour
50g of rice flour (or you can use all plain flour) 
Cream the butter and sugar together until they are light and fluffy, its best done with a mixer to save aching arms! Stir in the flour but teat it lightly otherwise you might lose all the air. 

Place mixture into a piping bag fitted with a large gage star nozzle. 
Pipe onto a greased baking tin, in small swirls. 
Its a good idea to keep the swirls tall, as the mixture spreads out in the oven. 
Put a cherry on the top and bake in a moderate oven (160/325 GM3) around 20 minutes 
or until pale and golden. 

You can be even more indulgent by adding a little jam and butter icing to make a biscuit sandwich, they will look like home made Viennese whirls. Or you can dip one side in chocolate… now that is a thought… ttfn x

Stir up Sunday

I thought I would try and make a Christmas pudding this year; it needs about 6 weeks to mature so I am a little late, Stir up Sunday is usually the first Sunday in November. It is called this because of the tradition where all the family members gather round and stir the mixture and make a wish before the pudding is steamed for the first time and then put aside to mature. 
I am not sure it is something that is known outside these shores, one of my very dear Au Pairs came all the way from Hungary, and she shuddered at the thought of eating Christmas Pudding, mostly because she believed that over the year all the scraps of food would be collected and boiled up to make Christmas Pudding. Of course when she ate the real thing it was something she loved. It really is one of my favourite parts of the meal, and I have been known to stock up on puddings for the year ahead. 
I remember doing this for the first time when I was twelve I used to visit a teacher in her small cottage not far from our home. We lived in a modern house where my mother believed cooking was a necessary evil, however under the quiet guidance of this teacher I learnt the alchemy and bliss you could gain from cooking. I remember her telling me all about stir up Sunday and I helped her measure out the ingredients and making a wish. I also remember making candied peel which tasted sublime and is much better than any type shop bought. It was a completely different lifestyle from my own, she had no television and her house was tiny in comparison to ours, but I would have swapped homes anytime. 
I thought of those days of bliss in the small victorian cottage, and my pantry has large labelled jars holding herbs, jewelled cherries, jam and marmalade. I think I am happiest of all in the kitchen, cooking is the most satisfying easy nurturing activity, right now it is full of the aromas of fruit cinnamon and nutmeg and will remain a day or two as it needs to soak in. 

Place in a bowl, (110g) – 4oz shredded suet, 2oz – (50g) of self-raising flour, 4 oz – (110g) white bread crumbs, 1 teaspoon each of mixed spice, ground nutmeg, ground cinnamon. 8 oz (225g) soft dark brown sugar, 4 oz (110g) each of sultanas, raisins, currants and 1oz of candied peel. 1oz (25g) of almonds, 1 small cooking apple finely chopped, Zest and juice of a lemon and an orange. In a separate bowl, put 2 large eggs, 3 fluid oz (75ml) of barley wine, 3oz (75ml) stout, 2 tablespoons rum, mix this together then add to the dry ingredients. Mix thoroughly, this is when the family is supposed to gather, each takes a turn to stir making a wish. Leave the pudding to rest for a day. 
 Spoon the mixture into a pudding basin, and make a tin foil lid. It is important to have a pleat in the lid so the pudding has room to rise. Tie the string round the edge of the basin and create a little handle over the top which will help you to lift out the pudding from the steamer. 
 I slowly steamed my puddings in a slow cooker for around 6 to 7 hours on a low setting. Slow cookers are perfect for steaming, as you can leave them to bubble away without worrying about the water boiling dry. This is how the pudding looks after its first cooking. 
I thought I would make some simple little covers, similar to the jam pot covers. Just an elasticated edge round the circles, but the lovely bright fabric makes them look very nice and festive. It is important to feed the puddings with your favourite tipple weekly, either brandy, vodka or liqueur, the pudding will soak up the alcohol.
 All they need is to be steamed again for about an hour or two on the big day, once again the slow cooker is the best way to let it slowly bubble. 
This is how they look when they are finally cooked, serve with cream or brandy butter. (Butter whipped with a couple of tablespoons of brandy). 
Update: These were really delicious, far superior to the shop bought ones even the ‘luxury’ brands! Despite feeding two adults not fans of the traditional pud, they proclaimed the puddings ‘delicious’. I saved the second one for my birthday, (on the 4th January) and it was still tasty, you can keep one by for the following year topping with alcohol, but I could not wait that long! 
As requested, I have updated this post with the recipe if you want to make them yourself. 
Enjoy, Happy Christmas!

Vintage find

It was the local animal hospital charity Christmas fair this weekend, I went along with T and it was a treasure trove of bric a brac, clothing and books! We barely had room in the boot to take our loot home! 
This delightful little juicer was an irresistible find and it works beautifully. I love the colours and decoration but I am not too sure about its age, it could be as early as a fifties piece or it could be from the seventies. 

The top plate is shaped perfectly for juicing and the little holes let the juice through and keeping the pips in the plate. 

The top comes off leaving the bottom an easy poring jug, it is a delight to use, one of those domestic gadgets I shall use time and time again. 

tea pot biscuits – domestic child’s play for grown ups

I saw this lovely teapot cookie cutter in TK Max the other week and I could not wait to try it out. It is made up of two pieces one is the teapot shape cutter and the other is a stamp you press out. There is nothing to beat the flavour of buttery biscuits hot from the oven and this recipe can be made ahead of time, stored in the freezer so that when friends drop round unexpectedly, they can be hot on the plate in under twenty minutes, definitely one of those domestic goddess moments with minimal effort. 
Pressing the stamps in the dough feels like child’s play and so much fun sheer domestic bliss! If you can’t get hold of your own teapot biscuit cutter, why not use a stamp from you craft collection, (you can use a surface sanitiser if you need to, but they will be in a hot oven to kill off any bugs!)  There are some wonderful Christmas stamps out that look beautiful stamped across a heart shaped biscuit. They would make lovely home made gifts that are sure to be appreciated. 
8 oz SR flour (If you use plain the shape might stay better) 
5 oz butter
4 oz golden caster sugar
I beaten egg (save some of the white) 
Egg white and sugar to glaze
Sift flour into the bowl and then rub in butter to make breadcrumbs
Add the sugar and mix, then add egg to make a dough
(if the dough is very soft put it in the fridge for 10 minutes to make it easier to handle) 
Roll out on a lightly floured board to about 1/2cm thick
Press the stamps into the dough and then carefully cut round each shape, transfer to a buttered baking tray, wash with egg white and then sprinkle with extra fine/caster sugar.
(or if you wish to freeze place in a plastic tub with a layer of baking parchment to divide them and freeze. When needed can cook these from the frozen, just lay out in a tin)
Let the biscuits firm up in the fridge for 10 – 15 minutes before placing in a moderate oven about gas mark 4, 180c or 350F until golden brown. 

Apron love

I love all things domestic, I also enjoy wearing clothes that feel good. I was inspired by the fabric when I was sent on a course to London. Near our HQ is a wonderful fabric shop and there was a whole range of lovely heart fabrics in all different sizes. I could imagine it would be the best thing for a fifties inspired apron and bought enough for a project. I don’t go that often and I have always regretted the times I have seen something and not bought it! (That is my excuse and I am sticking to it!)

I admit it is hearty! I researched several vintage designs of aprons and there were many fifties aprons that had heart shaped bib sections.

The problem is that sometimes the bib sections don’t keep their shape so I re-enforced this with some interfacing, in addition I also re-enforced the front of the tie section so it keeps its width and does not fold over as some tend to do.

I wanted some form rosette on the apron and found this lovely pin from the British heart foundation, very apt in our year of the Queen’s Jubilee and the Olympics! 
I love suffolk puffs, (now called yo yo’s thanks to our American cousins) I remember making a child’s toy at school it was a long caterpillar made from these puffs. My mother would not buy new material for it, so I had to cut up an old dress. I don’t think it was finished because it was a very lengthy process, but I am so pleased to see things re-invented and renewed. 

I made the tie nice and big, to create a lovely bow on my bottom! It adds to the appeal of femininity, which is what the fifties era personifies.

It is a period where women were able to wear very feminine clothes, together with new materials becoming available so much happened to change the lives of the Brits from the deprivation of war to the optimistic 60’s. I am going on a fashion lecture about this era as it is a particular interest of mine.

The skirt section is a half circle and it feels lovely as it sways around, it reminds me of a gypsy skirt I had in my dressing up box as a child. I think we should all dress up still! 

It is one of those things that I can simply slip on and indulge in a little baking imagining I am Doris Day! it makes me feel wonderful, just like a little girl again! Now that can’t be bad can it?

Tayberries

It was a short spell of sunshine that made the idea of pick your own tempting as we passed Roundstone Farm. http://www.roundstonefarm.co.uk/

 The  fruit wasn’t as well signposted, and it was a little muddy underfoot, so we ended up next to the bayberry bushes and could not find raspberries anywhere.

Tayberries are a cross between black berries and raspberries, but they have their own unique flavour.

This took days to strain but well worth the effort, it does mean that you get a very good jam base that can be used as a basis for sorbets and puddings, mixed with apple works well, or simply little jam tarts!

The syrup is good on ice cream, or combined with fizzy water for a nice long drink. The best thing about eating the jelly is the memory of spending the afternoon gathering the fruits together, it was the first bright day for a while and we picked them together.

There is definitely something goddess like, to have these little pots sitting in the pantry.

Small Pleasures

This is the view of my kitchen window sill, I thought I would post it here, because it was while I was doing the washing up last night that the title of this post occurred to me. 

I have been on quite a journey two years ago I was living in a large detached house with a garden and a large art studio, but when I left I spent a year living with other people. It isn’t until you have to cook in someone else’s kitchen that you begin to really appreciate your own. 

I know the view from my window isn’t rolling hills, and my kitchen is a quarter of the size I used to have, but, as I washed the dishes by hand I realised I had learned a good lesson, happiness is found in small pleasures.

I remember a time when I would stack dishes in the dishwasher it would be a chore, but now, I wash my dishes by hand as I don’t have room for a dishwasher, and it has surprised me just what a simple pleasure it is. I am connected to my beautiful things, it is only as I am putting loving care into cleaning my favourite pan, that I remember what a pleasure it is to use it. My plates are very pretty and as I wash them and wipe them clean, I am given a moment of the joy of owning such a charming pattern. I am connected with small things that make me happy. 

We are bombarded with images of large houses and big gardens, but I am happier now in my small flat than I ever was living in that large house. I don’t spend my weekends worrying about the garden, weeding and watering. Yes, I do miss sitting out in the fresh air, but if I really want to do that I can sit in the communal gardens and enjoy them while the gardener cuts the grass. It takes me no more than an hour to clean my flat, but in a large house, it never seemed to get tidy. 

That isn’t to say I don’t miss some things, like having a fresh egg from my own chickens, or having room for a big party, but on the whole, I feel happier and more content that I have in years. 


The larger bottle is de-ionised water that I have collected from my tumble dryer, and the other little bottle is vinegar, the best cleaner by far. Washing up uses less water than a dishwasher, and now because I don’t have a big house to keep clean, I often use my airing cupboard to dry most of my clothes, again, as I hang them to dry, I can appreciate them, rather than throwing them in the dryer. I love pretty bottles, it makes cleaning a pleasure, and it is magical to clean my possessions as I spent a year without them. I do enjoy having appliances that make life easier, but I think we also lose that connection with our possessions. 

More is not always better, some times it is about finding the simple pleasures.  

Vintage Needle threader

I am amazed at this little gadget, not only is it over 50 years old, but it is still boxed with the instructions and works beautifully. 

A ninety year old lady lent it to me, and we often talk about a love of sewing. She is still making things to this day on her thirty year old singer, I can only hope that in fifty years time when I am her age, I will still be enjoying sewing. 

I will have to look for one of these, as I am struggling to thread needles these days! I spend a lot of my time searching for my glasses! 

Oranges and lemons

 I love marmalade but the best bit for me is the thickly cut rind, and it seems that no matter how expensive the make of marmalade it is more jelly than fruit. 

I like to make my own marmalade, and often double up the number of oranges to make it extra fruity. Hartley’s do a  very good marmade, which makes up to 6lb and great value and usually makes it very successful, but I add my own oranges. 

Cut 8 large oranges in half, and extract the juice and then put the oranges in a large maslin pan, cover them with water and bring to the boil for around an hour and a half. Switch off then allow to cool. 

Take the orange halves and scrape out the inner segments and scrape out the white pith. Chop the rind either thinly or thickly to your preference. Using the directions on the marmade, but instead of water use the juice, it really brings out the orange flavour. You can also use jam sugar which has added pectin if you wish, this will help the marmalade set. 





I have been trying out different recipes for cheesecakes, I know the cooked cheesecake is the best for flavour, but no matter how hard I try the biscuit base ends up soggy. so I decided to try a non cook cheese cake using cream and muscapone but to bring out the real flavour of lemons I made some lemon curd. Make the usual digestive biscuit base. It really does make a great mix for a lovely lemon cheese cake, just fold into thick cream and muscapone, mix and then pour on top for a lovely lemony flavour. Home made lemon curd tastes so much nicer than commercial types. zest four lemons, add to 5 and a half ounces of melted butter. Add lemon juice and 1 lb of granulated sugar, heat gently until the sugar has melted and then add four beaten eggs. Stir constantly until the curd thickens up and then put in sterilised jars. 

Will keep up to a month, but keep in the fridge once opened. Of course the lemon cheesecake won’t last long at all!