Thoughts

It is normal at this time of year to think on the past and the future. Every now and then bad times out weigh the good and the effects continue for a long while after. Last year in many ways was the fallout year for a lot of, ‘bad’. I didn’t realise this time last year how badly I was affected by my mother’s death.The mixture of grief, anger and miss-placed guilt dragged me mentally into a bad place.It was, and still is hard to talk out it, but thanks to a wonderful lady counsellor and the support of family I have fought my way out if it. It has helped me see through a lot of the stupid crap I have surrounded myself with over the years in an effort to fit in, to often make myself be something I am not to suit other people.

For the first time in a long time I am actively working on being me, not what other people want me to be. I am focusing on what I think in important in my life and more importantly turning a lot of these thoughts into practice.

I suppose the fact that I will be sixty in 46 weeks and one day might also have something to do with it ;)

sues photos

 

It’s Christmas.

The Cake is iced and ready to be cut!

Christmas 003

 

 

 

 

 

The house is decorated.

Christmas 006Though I have brought a new tree this year. A small one that fits nicely on the coffee table.

 

 

 

 

Even decorated the fireplace.

Christmas 007

 

 

 

 

 

All ready for tomorrow! But today is a quiet, lazy day. Not even going to cook a meal. Plenty of stuff in the fridge that does not need cooking, well there is soup for lunch, but all it needs is warming up.

So Merry Christmas everyone

Christmas Cake made and I have the pictures to prove it.

Christmas Cake 001So we begin.

Take;

1 lb currents.                 Christmas Cake 005

8 oz sultanas

8 oz raisins

  4 oz glace cherries

  4 oz candied peel

  4 oz chopped almonds

 

Christmas Cake 00410 oz plain flour

Pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon mixed spice

 

Christmas Cake 0061 tablespoon black treacle

4 large eggs

8 oz butter

8 oz brown sugar

 

Christmas Cake 007Cream butter and sugar. Mix the eggs, lemon juice and treacle together and combine with butter and sugar. Add all the other ingredients, mix well. 

 

 

 

Put into an 8in loose-bottomed round tin, lined with greaseproof paper.

Cook for 1 hour ar 320 degrees F or 150 degrees C or Gas mark 2. Then reduce to 250 degrees F or 100 degrees C or Gas mark 1 for a further 3- 4 hours. Leave in tin to cool.

Christmas Cake 008

It’s that time of year again.

I am currently re-reading, ‘Toast’, by Nigel Slater, if you haven’t read this book you most certainly must. It is a superb snap shot of life. I can certainly relate to the section about the author’s mum making the Christmas cake. In fact my own mother used to use the same phrase, when it came time to make the Christmas cake. It was a chore, but a home baked cake was expected. And a couple of times the remains of mum’s cake did end up outside for the birds.

No matter how many layers of brown paper were wrapped round the tin the edges of the cake were often burned. The thing was that the cake had to cook at a low heat for several hours. Mum did not like the idea of leaving the electric oven on for that length of time, and as it was winter the small, coke-fired, Rayburn range we had in the kitchen was on all the time. Besides the coal fire in the front room it was the only heating in the house. The front room fire was not lit until after six pm week days and reluctantly on a Saturday, and Sunday morning. In fact Christmas was the only time the front room fire was left in over night.

Anyway, putting the cake in the Rayburn oven was great, if mum got the cake in mid morning on a week day before she went to work as the Rayburn was banked up and slumbering. But if the cake was still in the oven come tea time. The hotplates and oven were needed to cook the tea, so the fire in the Rayburn was stirred up, the air vent opened and…. poor old cake used to get a bit crisp on the outside.

I can still see mum carefully cutting a thin layer off the edge of the cake and saying, “No one will notice.” But you did, the burnt flavour went all the way through the cake. Add to the burnt cake a thick layer of marzipan and royal icing so tough the glass cake stand tipped as you tried to cut a piece. The marzipan and icing were just on the top. The icing in rough peaks, mum’s, “snow scene,” into which were placed a Santa, snowman and reindeer, not plastic but plaster. Mum acquired them sometime in the early 1950′s. These were used until mum hit on the idea to ask me to make her a cake, the first Christmas I was married. And I did, most years right up till she died.

The thing is mum’s cake, sitting on top of her old sideboard. The cake and its glass stand reflected both in the mirror on the back of the sideboard and the highly polished surface on which it stood is one of those good memories I am trying to hold on too.

As for Christmas cake making, it is that time of year again for me. I have brought the fruit and will set about making,’the cake,’ once I am back from WFC.

 

Toast by Nigel Slater published by Harper Collins.

Toast by Nigel Slater published by Harper Collins.

Date and Ginger loaf fresh from the oven.

date and ginger loaf 002Date and Ginger Loaf.

6oz soft brown sugar

6oz butter

3 eggs

3oz chopped dates

1 tablespoon black treacle

6oz self-raising flour.

1 teaspoon gound ginger

Mix butter and sugar together.

Beat in eggs and black treacle.

Beat in flour, dates and ginger (gently)

Place in a greased and lined 2lb loaf tin

Bake for roughly an hour at 150C or until a skewer comes out clean.

Leave to cool.

Serve buttered or not as per your taste.

 

 

In addition…

j0439824 - CopyThis is an addition to my earlier post about changes in my life.

Things are beginning to change, slowly. I know things are not going to be different over night, but I find myself wishing there was a machine I could point at a problem and it would vanish. Sadly that’s never going to happen. One of the negative results of this is that I have become a bit of a broken record. I am moaning none stop about the things, people included, that are part, cause, or are the problems,  as far as my slightly hung-up brain believes.

During a conversation with my cousin, she suggested I write things down. To which I replied I did. Afterwards I realised that I hadn’t been writing things down. I had been making lists. Lists don’t get you anywhere, unless they are the shopping variety, then again how many times do you make a list and forget to put down half of what you need, or go shopping and buy a lot of stuff not on your list at all.

So I started to write out all my perceived problems. At first I began to get really worked up about these so called problems, then I began to think of how many these really are my problems, turns out very few of them.

Most are not worth the time it took to write about them. So from now on I am going to try and not moan about these d list problems, the places and people involved, because to be honest they are not that important. My world will not come crashing down if I do or don’t address them. Life will go on and tomorrow will come.  

I am going to save my time and energy to address the more important things in my life which are not problems and which have been so many times pushed to one side by my thinking I need to deal with so called , none problems.

Another thing I have realised, I enjoy the company of other people, but I don’t need other people to enjoy myself.

 

Mushroom Lasagne

lasagne_verdi

Mushroom Lasagne.

This does eight or more depending on your portions. It is rich so you need a plain green salad and lots of crusty bread with it. You can use any dried mushrooms with it, but I like the taste of the porcini yum! Used it as one of the “hot dishes” when we have had “open house”

 

Cal per portion, you don’t want to know

 Lasagne filling.

 2 x 50g that’s about 2oz, packets of dried porcini mushrooms.

 8oz button mushrooms chopped.

 4 cloves of garlic crushed.

 4 medium onions (not too large) chopped.

 4 good tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley, flat leaf if you can get it.

 4 tablespoons of good olive oil.

 2 mushroom or vegetable stock cubes

 2 pints whipping cream (oh heck)

 Bèchamel sauce.

 4 oz butter

 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

 2oz plain flour

 1 and a half pints of milk

 2 good pinches of freshly ground nutmeg

 About 20 sheets of fresh green lasagne you can use the no pre cook dried type if you wish, matter of choice and time *g* used both, tastes the same it’s the filling you see …

 12 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese

 2 oz butter.

 How to make.

 Soak the dried porcini in two pints of warm water for two hours. In other words sit them in a bowl and go watch a film ;) Come back, remove mushrooms and strain well.  KEEP THE LIQUID ALL THE FLAVOUR OF THE MUSHROOMS IS IN THE WATER, SO MAKE SURE YOU USE IT FOR THE SAUCE

 Chop the porcini and the other mushrooms, then fry the garlic, onion and parsley in two tablespoons of the oil for about 10 minutes, no browning of the onions… soft and transparent. Add the mushroom liquid (water you soaked them in) plus stock cubes and boil for 10 minutes. Then add the cream and simmer very gently for 35 mins…

Note; at this point you have a superb, rich cream of mushroom soup, I have used it as such.

 Once done set aside to cool.

 Then make the Bèchamel sauce. Heat oil and 4 oz of butter in a pan, then add the flour and stir in. mix in milk and bring to the boil over a moderate heat whisking well until smooth, and not too thick (coat the back of a spoon thickness) Add salt, black pepper and nutmeg to taste.

 Now you can blanch the fresh lasagne sheets in a pan of hot water(with the other two tablespoons of oil in) of about a minute doing two or three at a time then plunge them into cold water and put on a clean tea towel to dry, before using them for layering. OR use the no pre cook dried type, up to you….

 Then you layer it up the lasagne in what ever dish you have, pasta, some mushroom filling, Bèchamel l sauce and some of the grated parmesan. Don’t make the layers too thick with the filling… keep layering. Finish with Bèchamel cheese and dot with the other 2 oz of butter..

 Now you chill it for 24 hours, you don’t have too, but it makes the flavour better. Then you cook it at gas mark 6 200 degrees C that’s 400 degrees F, for about 30 to 40 mins might take 45 depending on how deep you have it…

 

 

 

 

The world is changing and so am I.

For a long time I have tried to fit other people’s expectations of me. I thing it stems from my childhood this need to change myself to fit, to blend in, to become unnoticed. This I learned at a young age protected you. If you become unnoticed then you can’t get hurt. Every now and then in my life I have managed to shake off this need, and those to be honest have been some of the happiest times of my life.

Over the past few years I have been engaged in a battle with myself, to still try and be unnoticed and be myself. This has resulted in my weight getting totally out of control and my health suffering. First my father’s death over ten years ago and especially my mother’s last year has resulted in a lot of thinking of the past. Slowly over the past few months I believe I have come to terms with events in the past and made a number of decisions about my future. If I don’t make the move now, I am going to end up sitting looking at a wall, switched off mentally, just waiting to die.

No way.

So the the next stage of my life begins now. I am taking steps to improve my health, lose weight and not bend over backwards to fit in and be unnoticed. It might offend some people, so what. it’s time I really became me, not the person others want me to be.

Bit like going back to the beginning,

img029

Cooking by the seat of your pants.

Over the years like most people who cook I have thrown things together in the hope that they will turn out eatable. Last night I cooked two things that have become favourites.

Main course. Chicken and spinach pasta bake, or now and then it becomes chicken and chestnut mushroom pasta bake, or pork steak and chestnut mushroom pasta bake or pork steak and spinach pasta bake. If you use minced beef and mushrooms, tinned tomatoes and basil with a cheese sauce on top it becomes a lasagne with penne instead of sheets.

tea time 002So,

Two Chicken breasts sliced.

250 gram more or less large penne pasta

500gram bag of  fresh spinach or four small blocks of frozen

Garlic and garlic flavoured olive oil

butter, plain flour, milk, nutmeg, salt pepper and graded cheese to make a cheese sauce.

Put the penne onto cook, 5 minutes before its cooked put in spinach. Drain and put back in pan.

While penne is cooking fry the sliced chicken with garlic, set aside once cooked through. (about 10 minutes) in frying pan, melt butter, blend in flour, add milk slowly and make white sauce add grated nutmeg salt pepper and cheese.

Add chicken and cheese sauce to penne in pan. Load the well mixed ingredients into baking dish. Cover with more grated cheese. Bake at 170C for about 40 minutes till brown and bubbling.

You can serve with a green salad and crusty bread if you wish.

tea time 005

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet.

Fruit salad.

Any fruit you have about. You can just chop it up and pour over fresh or carton orange juice. But I find the orange juice over powers the flavour of the fruit. So I make a syrup. 3/4 pint of water boiled in a pan with two tablespoons of sugar for about 2 minutes. Squeeze in the juice of one lemon and leave to cool. Pour over fruit. Serve with ice cream, or fresh cream of choice.

tea time 007