Thursday, 29 September 2011

You'd think it was Summer

The new building at the heart of the Three Counties Showground
Truly, you would think it was midsummer - the temperature still so warm at 19-18, though the sun has already dropped below the line of the whale-backed Malverns. Yes, we are here again - you could almost say we cannot keep away! But actually, would you believe it, we are semi-working, covering the new Three Counties 'Malvern Caravan Show'. The weather is perfect and there is much planned for our delight over the next three days. A tour of the Morgan Car factory tomorrow (which will take us back to the days of our youth when Raymond sold his beloved 1932 Aston Martin Le Mans sports racing car in order to marry me. That was in 1958; a long while ago).

Just the two of us - Raymond's experimental photography; and I got the giggles!
Right now, I cannot believe we are still sitting outside in shirtsleeves; the glow over the hills lights up the skyline, a magnificent silhouette. Tomorrow maybe we'll walk on the hills, or drive over them into Ledbury (another favourite spot). Saturday there's a farmer's market, and new caravans to see (we don't want or need a new one). I plan to work on my map-trail journal if I have time, and then Sunday ... not sure yet. I'm just not used to having so much spare time. It is almost dark, pinpricks of light emerge along the hills; a robin sings in a thorn tree. Acquaintances from the Caravan Writers' Guild have just arrived, and Raymond suggests we force down the bottle of cheap Cava that has been chilling in the fridge. Good idea, for it's too dark now to see the keyboard. Tomorrow is another day.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

The baking urge

My attempt at icing cupcakes
There's something about this time of year that has me dashing to the kitchen to bake something for teatime treats - maybe it's the onset of imminent Autumn, or the fact that dear Raymond needs regular breaks from building (he's blocking up the old doorway into the kitchen right now). Or maybe it's the fact that the kitchen is becoming the room it never was - after all these years it will be a working space and not a corridor with an ever-present easterly wind blowing out the gas every time someone opened the door into the garden.

Too embarrassing to show the state of the place with bags and boxes littering every work-surface, pending new shelves where the door once was - an old print-room typesetter from our former magazine publishing company and print works slotted into a convenient gap because R. still thinks this 4'6" high x 3' wide x 2'6" deep monstrosity has some value, twelve years after we decided to 'retire' (though we never did!) There's still much to do, and the kitchen's flat roof to repair because it leaks when it rains. R. will tackle that next, and probably before the shelves and new work-surface. We still managed to prepare a three-course family meal last night, despite balancing hot pans where no hot pans were meant to be. Saturday evening roast with a grapefruit and orange starter, fresh veg from the garden (five varieties, plus sweetcorn that we cannot grow here), then chocolate profiteroles, pancakes and 'toffee crisp'. 

Scanned from my 1950s
cookbook (still in use)
There's nothing new under the sun, as the saying goes. Indeed, cupcakes may be the latest culinary craze, but they featured in the basic cook book I bought when Raymond and I were married, back in 1958 (all I could cook was pork chops and boil an egg!). I still use it - very battered now - for it has basics to which I still refer, like the pancake mixture made yesterday morning in readiness for the grandchildren's arrival.

The cakes had travelled from
Devon to Capel Manor College in
Middlesex for the 'Waooh' launch,

and were delicious
And just why did cupcakes re-enter the baking equation when I haven't made any for years? Read my Dobies of Devon gardening blog and you will discover the catalyst - mouth-watering cakes that were handed around at a press event to celebrate the launch of a new sunflower.  'Waooh' is a wow indeed, as were the little cakes; the plant itself is a branched sunflower perfect for growing a pot.

Excellent for beginner or
experienced cook
Well, having realised that nowadays cupcakes are 'cool', I wanted to try my hand at a modern recipe. I searched for an English cookbook and discovered a really special one. Cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery’, by Martha Swift & Lisa Thomas and published by Kyle Cathie Ltd. It is the work of two young mothers who started baking cupcakes for children’s parties and now run a flourishing business in Primrose Hill and Covent Garden, London. Splendid recipes are given for all types of cupcake: vanilla, lemon, chocolate, caramel and many more, all to a basic simple formula using easy to acquire good quality ingredients. The buttercream icing is equally simple to make, though my swirling over the cakes was less than professional. (I'm more used to glace icing drizzled into place over a madeira sponge baked in a bread tin.)

These silicon baking cases were easy to fill 
Clearly I needed easy-to-use cupcake cases for my spooning of the batter into paper cases ended in something of a mess. But kitchenware supplier, Lakeland Ltd, have the perfect answer:  pastel-coloured silicon cases: the cakes do not stick and slide out easily once cooked and cooled. Their silicon piping set is ideal for decorating. Both products are dishwasher safe - perfect. To serve, I popped the cakes into pretty pleated paper cases and presented them to the three grandchildren who live only a few miles away, for their verdict. K. ate one on the spot, and popped another into her satchel before dashing off for evening swimming training. The remainder had evidently disappeared before bedtime, so Grandma's cooking couldn't have been too bad! And now my new hens have started laying, I can foresee more baking sessions throughout the coming months. Cakes galore in fact, and with practice, maybe my icing technique will improve - so many flavours to try, I'm wondering which to make next. Click on any of the highlighted text for more information on book and equipment and a direct link to purchase if you wish.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Just Words - Remembering

I will never forget
the day
the world changed

Such evil, such hatred
So much hurt
and anguish
Even for those of us
who could only
watch, open-mouthed
in disbelief

Never forget
what happened
on that day
The shattering of life
the fortitude of so many

And can the human race
ever replace hatred
and mindless violence
with everlasting love?

asm 11th September 2011

I wrote about this terrible and tragic event in my journal, the day it happened, and am reminded of it every time I see the iconic New York skyline in photos or on TV, bereft of so much more than buildings. In a way, that gaping hole brings home even more sharply the loss of so many people, and the affect it had on countless others all around the world. I wrote about it in the first year of my blog here. Then I baked a friendship cake; today I will whisper words to myself as I make cupcakes to a new recipe. I will never forget, a scene imprinted in my mind forever. Rest in peace.