Mother’s Day

Yesterday was a lovely day, P was out in the morning so I pottered around getting things MDtulipsdone, reading my new recipe book, planning the evening meal etc. In the afternoon he arrived complete with a selection of tulips in pinks and purples, a beautiful pair of silver and amber ear-rings earrings(which I totally forgot to include when I wrote this post originally even though I was wearing them in my ears at the time!) a lovely card (when I used to be looking for Mother’s Day cards for my own Mum I could never find anything different but P manages every year to find something that appeals to me.) and the suggestion that we go for a walk together without the dogs just to enjoy the afternoon. We drove up to Scorton, Scortonwell I drove – I value my sanity more then to suggest he drives on Mother’s day when the world and their dogs will be out as well as all the usual Sunday drivers, and had a lovely if cold walk through the village and along the river. He even left his phone in the car so he wouldn’t get the usual heap of calls and texts …it felt extra special to have his undivided attention. When we got back to the car there were a list of missed calls and texts so it was a good plan! We planned to go to Scorton Barn to look at the plants but were disappointed to find that they seem to have become mostly a tea and gift shop – the garden part looked very bleak and unloved. The tea room was packed so we came home and had tea and biscuits before he took the dogs out for a good run while I made our evening meal.

I treated myself to the book Truly Tasty – a book written by chefs with meal suggestions and recipes for people with kidney failure. TTSounds like an oxymoron but the book contains some excellent recipes all worked out so that they can be adapted to suit the specific renal diet needed but are tasty and attractive enough to suit those on normal diets too.  All the dietary exchanges are highlighted so by eating very bland meals earlier in the day I was able to enjoy tagliatelle with poached salmon, broccoli spears and asparagus  with a dill cream sauce and a delicious blueberry sponge. My portion had only minimal amounts of salmon, broccoli and asparagus and a lot of pasta and I didn’t get many blueberries either  but it was the tastiest meal I’ve had  in quite a while. I’d have taken photos but I was too busy eating it! The book is full of imaginative ways of making a little of the phosphorus and potassium containing foods go a long way and I’m looking forward to testing a few more. It is definitely special occasion food, even with the restrictions, but makes the daily diet feel more bearable. I have nothing but praise for the chefs who took the time to work on the project and do feel that renal units should tell patients about it at the same time as giving out the daily guidelines. I’m now planning a birthday meal to enjoy with friends next month – having thought I would either have to eat something completely different or forgo the occasion.


Mixers again

I’m still looking for the perfect mixer, as I wrote a while ago I would love an Ankarsrum Assistent but the UK distributor does not have anywhere other than London where I could go and examine one and I don’t plan to spend that much money without seeing and touching one.  In the meantime I’ve been scouring the Internet looking for a handheld mixer which can also be used on a stand due to the fact that problems with my circulation mean that holding a mixer for any length of time while it is running makes my fingers tingle in a nasty way. Kenwood make a hand mixer with a stand but looks a flimsy. There are a couple of other makes which are either equally flimsy looking or ludicrously over priced for the power of the mixer. I love the k-Mix hand mixer but it is heavy and there is no stand available. I love even more the k-Mix stand mixer in the crazy purple stripey Oyster Cove colour which (fortunately for my bank balance) is out of stock everywhere other than South Africa.

In despair I’d been muttering about my mum’s Kenwood Chefette, the height of sophistication in the 60’s when it was bought for her by the Gadget Queen herself – my Auntie Jeanne. Auntie Jeanne loved food and cooking (which may have had something to do with her ample girth) and particularly loved gadgets. On a trip to Edinburgh once she apparently spent hours in a shop looking for a gadget – when asked what she was looking for said she didn’t know she just wanted a new gadget. Anyway I digress, she bought Mum one of the first Kenwood Chefettes and as a child I was very very impressed by it. It had its own stand, a liquidiser and a lovely white Pyrex bowl (later models had brown smoked glass and then brown plastic!) The mixer could be tipped back to remove the beaters from the bowl, even if the mixer was still running however this splattered cake mixture up the kitchen walls (don’t ask!), or the whole mixer could be lifted off to use in a different bowl  or to stand on its end and attach the liquidiser to the front to make wonderful foamy milkshakes -the only way I could be persuaded to drink milk.  I looked them up on the Internet and lo and behold there were some slightly later models for sale on ebay. I bid on a wonderful boxed set which had never been used but was sniped at the last minute then found a less pristine one and bid on that. I won the auction and am now waiting impatiently for my lovely Chefette to arrive. The seller assures me it works perfectly so I’m very hopeful and even if it doesn’t I will have a very nice white Pyrex mixing bowl for roughly the cost of few cups of coffee at Starbucks!

PS my Auntie Jeanne sadly died in her early 30s, she left me a tin of pennies for the penny arcade at the seaside (scandalising the family since gambling of any kind was frowned upon), a love of both cooking and sewing and some very happy memories of a larger than life individual who made the best of a difficult life, she had rheumatic fever as a child which damaged her heart irreparably. She lived in a tiny cottage on the sea front at Anstruther and when we visited would take me paddling across the bay to the penny arcades and the fish and chip shop. On the return trip  she would wash her hands in the sea in the hope that her sister in law (my mum) wouldn’t notice the smell of chips on her fingers.

All I want for Christmas…

well actually I’d like it much sooner but I’m going to have to save up!

Many years ago when I worked as an au-pair I used an Ankarsrum Assistent food mixer and loved it. It was cream and stainless steel and looked somewhat industrial but very attractive and made wonderful bread and cakes and meringues.

Recently I have been looking at food mixers and was hunting for prices on the Internet for Kenwood Chefs and K-Mix mixers when I found a reference to the Assistent. I followed it up and discovered that they are now sold in UK and also that they come in an array of lovely colours including Pearl Blue (as shown above) which would look lovely in my blue kitchen! Having cast aspersions on the price of KitchenAid mixers I am now having to eat my words as the Assistant is even more expensive and I will have to start saving all my pennies (and pounds) in the Assistent fund.


Oranges are the only fruit…

To make proper Seville marmalade you need proper Seville oranges. These are only available in the shops here for a short time, usually around the latter part of January. This year I got a phone call from the local grocers to tell me that the oranges had arrived in the first week of January and hot footed it up to buy some. Glorious bumpy skinned, sunshine bright oranges were heaped up in very attractive wooden crates, I couldn’t wait to buy some and bring them home. Despite the problems with the electricity last week I managed to make eight jars of dark amber marmalade last week and made eight more today. The recipe is a mixture of ones I have read plus memories of my mother’s marmalade making. Mum wasn’t a great cook, she made good plain food with a fairly limitied list of ingredients. She was however a very good baker of Victoria sponges, Dundee cakes and scones and an excellent jam and marmalade maker. Her recipe for marmalade has long been lost but I can remember bits of it. I know it began with two pounds of Seville oranges which invariably rolled off the scales onto the floor to be chased by our little Border Terrier, Sheena Bhan, who was in her turn chased round the kitchen by my Mum! Looking at my recipe books I can see that 2 pounds of oranges need 4pounds of sugar but I do remember that Mum always used four ounces less and made up the rest with four caddy spoons of dark treacle. The caddy spoon was the spoon in the tea caddy used to measure tea into a pot (no tea bags in our house) and was roughly the size of a tablespoon with a very ornate teapot as a handle. Sadly it too has been lost but a plastic tablespoon sufficed. Mum used to mince the orange peels in her green enamel mincer but I find cutting them with scissors gives a more even size and retains the chunky texture better. I’m also a bit wary of using the mincer -imagining my fingers getting minced along with the peels.The only other ingredients were water and the juice of a lemon. The method involved three stages. First cut the lemon into eight wedges cutting vertically, leaving both pips and peel in place. These lemon slices go into a small pan with half a pint of water and all the pips from the oranges and are boiled for about ten minutes. The liquid is drained off into a preserving pan and the lemon slices and pips are put into a muslin bag. Meanwhile the oranges, which have also been sliced into eight vertically and had the pips removed earlier, have the flesh and pith removed and cut into small pieces. This goes into the preserving pan along with 3 and a half pints of water and all the orange peel cut into slivers. I cut mine approximately half an inch long by an eigth of an inch wide. The muslin bag is added to the pan which is brought to a simmer on top of the cooker, then put into the Everhot warming oven at 150degrees for about three hours. After this time the orange peels should be soft and almost translucent.  The muslin bag is removed and left to cool. At this point I add the sugar and treacle, I don’t warm it as it will start to dissolve while I deal with the muslin bag. Once that is cool enough to handle it is squeezed out so that all the pectin from the lemon peel and pips is removed. This is a sticky liquid which is added to the preserving pan to help the marmalade set. The pan is put onto the top of the stove on the simmering plate and stirred until all the sugar is dissolved completely before being moved to the boiling plate. The clean jars are put in the warming oven to sterilise while the marmalade is boiled. Once it reaches a rolling boil it usually takes about 15 minutes to reach setting point.The warmed jars are taken out of the oven and the pan is taken off the cooker and left for ten minutes to allow the peel to disperse into the marmalade and not rise to the top. Then it is ladled into the warm jars and the lids are put on while it is hot.The smell of the marmalade with its treacle undertone is such a lovely rich smell which brings back memories of the kitchen when we lived in Beech Hurst, a beautiful flat in a Victorian house with a red lino floor in the kitchen and a big cream AGA cooker. My father was in hospital and my Mum did a lot of marmalade and jam cooking, presumably to keep herself  from worrying about him. When he died and we had to leave the flat (it belonged to his employers) I do remember her packing boxes and boxes of jars which almost filled the larder at our next, much smaller, home.

The marmalade making today was complicated by the fitting of the wood burning stove in the sitting room. Poor Tilly is anxious at the best of times but took a particular dislike to the workmen today and was even more worried than usual so paced and whimpered much of the time until I was trying to stir the marmalade as it boiled when she decided she needed to be very close to me. Stirring boiling and spitting hot marmalade with a large dog curled up at your feet is not ideal but it did calm her down! The cream door her head is resting on is the warming oven door. I was very worried she would end up with hot drips landing on her but she survived unscathed.The wood burning fire is now fitted but we have to wait 24 hours before it can be used to allow everything to set and settle in place. The weather forecast is threatening a return to wintry weather so it will be ready just at the right time and we are looking forward to cosy evenings by the fire.

Farewell to 2011

New Year’s Eve already, a time to look back and think about the past year and to look forward to 2012. So much happened last year, most of it good and some of it sad

The lovely and gentle Charlie Bear died, although he only lived with us for six months he was very much a part of the family and he left a big space in our lives….so








we got Skye, a lovely black German Shepherd puppy







who got bigger and bigger and bigger








After ten long months we got Tilly back. We were so happy to see her and she was so happy to be home again.







Nino is still with us despite being so ill during the summer and developing dementia. He is a very confused little dog but still enjoys his food and a wee walk round the block if it isn’t too cold. He seems to like watching the other dogs playing but has no interest in joining in.






The kitchen cupboards were built , flooring installed and blinds put up at the windows.





I did lots of cooking both before and after the kitchen was installed, especially jam making which I love doing. The picture shows less than half the jars of jam I made, I donated most to the MacMillan Coffee morning to raise funds for MacMillan nurses.




I survived another year without dialysis, had to have my dialysis access fistula repaired and was accepted onto the renal transplant list, I had a few problems with my heart again and have to have some more tests but otherwise stayed relatively healthy.

I knitted lots of things… eight baby cardigans, a baby coat, three necklace and bracelet sets, five pairs of fingerless gloves,numerous pairs of socks, three pairs of pulsvarmers, two pairs of gloves, a couple of scarves, a hat and part of a blanket.

I didn’t do much sewing and as a result have far too much fabric sitting in cupboards. I went on a quilting course and have a quilt still to finish I’m ashamed to say.

I did even less gardening but we did get a wonderful lawnmower that is easy for me to push so I did manage to cut the lawns fairly regularly. The garden has been so wet over the summer and autumn that it now resembles a muddy mess but hopefully when it dries out in spring we can restore the lawn and sort out the flowerbeds.

We sold the pretty blue Saab and bought a beautiful Ruby Saab. We had a garage built. My son got a Harley Davidson motorbike, in bits and put it together.

I walked a lot and cycled a little .

I watched Forbrydelsen (The Killing) on TV and enjoyed it, I gave up watching most other TV because it has become less and less interesting but I renewed my aquaintance with the radio and the CD player and have discovered the joys of listening to audiobooks while waiting for hospital appointments.

All in all it has been a good year and I have managed to do most of what I planned to do. Tomorrow I’ll make some plans for the new year!





Countdown and a cake recipe.

The countdown has begun, 10, 9, 8…yes only eight days until the new kitchen is installed! Yesterday was the first of October, so what did I do…go to a coffee morning of course.

It was in aid of the MacMillan Fund and was at Evie’s house. There was a table full of delicious cakes and biscuits, tea and coffee to drink, shortbread, jam and yarn to buy and time to sit and chat and knit all in a good cause. When my mother was dying the nurses from MacMillan were wonderful, they came to sit with her a couple of nights a week so that I could get some sleep as I was looking after my two-year old son at the same time. They helped me to explain to him what was happening to his lovely Granny and supported my sister and I to cope with our grief while we looked after Mum at home. I have nothing but praise for them.

In the afternoon I painted the sink unit cupboard doors and cleaned the rest of the sink unit woodwork ready to paint it today. This morning I managed to get it all painted with the help/hindrance of two very nosey German Shepherds intrigued by the sight of me sitting on the floor painting the side of the cupboard where the bin (source of much goodness in a dog’s mind) usually lives. The mini-heatwave of the last few days has gone to be replaced with more usual October dreichness but it is at least warm enough to have the doors and windows open while the paint dries.

Today I have a bag of pears to make into jam and cake thanks to my friend and fellow jam maker Paula,  I’m going to make Pear and Lemon Jam using the recipe from the Cottage Smallholder with the addition of some stem ginger to add a warming kick and a Pære og Valnøddekage  (pear and walnut cake) from a recipe given to me by a Danish friend

250g plain flour

2tsp baking powder

180g caster sugar

2 large eggs

100ml milk

125g butter

3 large pears, peeled, cored and chopped and a handfull of chopped walnuts

Optional…the seeds from a vanilla pod.

Melt the butter gently and leave to cool a little. Sieve the flour and baking powder together, stir in the caster sugar and add the chopped pears and walnuts (and vanilla seeds if used). Mix thoroughly to coat the pieces of pear to prevent them browning. Beat the eggs, to make a lighter cake whisk the egg whites to soft peak stage first then beat the yolks and milk together  and stir into the egg whites, add to flour mixture stiring all the time, pour in melted butter and beat enthusiastically. Pour into a 9 inch springform tin and bake for 40-50 mins at 180*C. The instructions then say “sit for a little while before turning upside down on a wire rack” …I know they mean the cake to do the sitting and turning upside down but it still amuses me! Leave to cool. Sprinkle top with more caster sugar or icing sugar before serving.


Autumn Fruits

It’s been a chilly day today, the first day I’ve put gloves on when walking the dogs so it seemed a good day to make warm autumnal food for tea. Potatoes, broccoli and cheese baked slowly in the Everhot and while that was cooking I made a crumble version of Foragers’ pie. I had a couple of windfall apples, some damson pulp left from making damson jelly, a few elderberries and brambles picked on the lane near school this afternoon and some blackcurrant juice in place of sugar to sweeten the fruit, topped with crumble mixture and baked for 20 minutes. It was delicious. The apple cores and peels went into the pot with the remaining windfall apples to make some clear apple jelly tomorrow. Making jelly means that I will have some apple pulp to freeze for apple sauce … I do like how the fruit just keeps on providing new possibilities.

On the drive home from school I had to wait behind a police car while the driver was supervising the removal of a fallen tree from the road, I think I may have become slightly obsessed by jam making though as my first thought was to wonder if it was one of the plum trees (it wasn’t) and if so would there be plums all over the road too!

Talking of school, I was working with the youngest children today, the four year olds who only started school last week. They were drawing their favourite animals on the computer and I was typing their descriptions of the animals to be displayed with their pictures. After a few fairly predictable pictures of dogs, cats and rabbits etc doing fairly predictable things I began working with a small boy who told me he was drawing a lion digging up the road with a drill. When he finished his drawing I asked if that was what he wanted me to write and he replied “Oh no, he’s finished that now…he’s doing nothing, he’s having a rest.” He thought for a minute and then said “I wish I could have a rest now, I’ve been working all day.” Some of the children are so small, they still look like toddlers and by mid afternoon they do look tired. When I first started school I remember that we used to have a sleep after lunch, there were little pull-out beds in the first class and we would have to lie quietly for half an hour then we listened to a story before starting the afternoon activities. I suppose the pressure to teach children more is much greater now but I do think these little ones would benefit from an afternoon rest in their first year at school.