Sunday, 31 July 2011

Home sweet doggy home

I am so very pleased to be home. Away from that noisy place, where I had to shout just to keep up with the neighbours - now my bark is so hoarse, it hurts, so I'm thinking I'd better rest it for a few days. And talking of rest - all that barking at the kennels really tired me out: I couldn't sleep, couldn't relax, had to stay alert 24/7 to keep up with all the gossip. Now I'm home, I'm really, really tired.

Slept by the Aga:

Then helped to water the blue-berries

And sniffed around the bonfire. Rabbits have been very busy in my absence - loads of droppings! Yum!

Missed my blankie! Gave it a good chew.

Didn't want mum to leave me anywhere again, so followed her around everywhere, even helped with the washing.

Got between her and the dishwasher, between her and the bin, between her and the kettle - managed to make her trip over me a couple of times too. Don't want her to forget I'm here.

Later tried to sleep again. But ...

... couldn't! Think I might just milk their guilt for a few more days. 

After all, its not every day I get a bone and a nice long walk, with carrots:

What could I try for tomorrow?

Just one thing I don't understand - apart from, of course, the inexplicable need to banish and imprison me for over a week. What were they doing all that time without me? - and that is all the talk about teeth. What's the fuss? I ate mine when they fell out. Don't humans do the same?

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Paris, London and electric eels

Fifteen hours travelling home: Paris - route along the Seine, whimsical wonderings about which restaurant Ratatouille works in, and saw the Eiffel Tower; then pit stop at the coast, in Wimereux, for pizza and petrol; channel tunnel (earlier train at no extra cost!); and navigated (thanks to sat nav on mobile phone, as A to Z left at home) through London night-life, to drop off son (not to partake in night-life - as far as we were aware - but to be nearer to weekend Jazz course).

So a  long boring day,  that was brightened (or illuminated?) by the astonishing spectacle of (Warning: Childish Nuggett to follow) electric eels seen through the windows of the channel tunnel train!!!

Here are some of littlest's recollections of what she was fortunate enough to see.

"They were absolutely so long and fat, moving quite straight, but also wriggling sometimes. They were going so terribly fast - it was really exciting to watch. Some were black and white, and it was interesting because of the different colours. They started off really dull, then suddenly, in a while, flashed for a long time, then they went dark and new ones came in - loads and loads of them. I think there were also jellyfish and light-up, electric fish, flashing past in a long, straight line. Apparently, the eels are very rare and not everyone gets to see them, so we were extremely, very lucky."

The tooth fairy has been extremely, very lucky too, because the tooth is still in place, host still eating only soft food, but is now dangling at an alarming angle ...

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Men should wear pink socks

A lazy day, spent in and out of the sun. Programme as directed by littlest:

Swimming - in the outdoor pool, Mum too - wayhay!! - weather warm enough! Even needed sun cream.

Next, bath, lunch and watch a movie - as too hot to be outside. (Can't believe there has been a day too hot to do anything this holiday - last day too, but better late than never).

Then drawing class

Of this

Followed by a brief, too-hot, too-tired strop about needing to go home ... not tomorrow, now! 

Cuddle afterwards included a discussion about school next term and how happy littlest is not to have the one male teacher. Warning - nugget of childish wisdom follows:

"I don't like men teachers."
"What about your piano teacher?"
Laughs - "He's really funny. He's a guy. He's not like men teachers. He wears pink socks!"

So there you have it - if you are a man and a teacher, you must wear pink socks for your little girl pupils to think you are cool.

Later, after ice cream (could't persuade her to try an apple, so tooth still loosely lodged in her mouth), she played with friends (wonderful the ease with which children make friends on holiday), building a tree house/den

And then swimming again, early evening and still warm enough to use the outdoor pool. The tears of earlier and the longing to go home now, long forgotten. Tomorrow, they will no doubt, be replaced by tears of wanting to stay.

Looks like the tooth fairy may have a shorter journey after all.

And that oxymoron (for anyone reading more than one posting) - "self catering holiday"

Tooth fairy update

Tooth-fairy services still not required. Tooth remains stubbornly wobbly. So dilemma now is - will she have to travel to France, or not? Will Lady Penelope's car be called into service? Or will the flight time be short enough for little wings?

It all depends on how fast the tooth fairy flies. Because, apparently, the company of tooth fairies live inside the big tree, in the middle of the grass, in Granny's garden. So, if the tooth waits 24 hours until back in Blighty and if the fairy is speedy, the distance could be covered in an hour. But if she is slower, then the car will be needed.

Perhaps the eating of an apple could be encouraged .... euro or pound?

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

When the birds and the bees come to dragon-flies

Throw yourself back to the 70's and listen to little girls singing Abba songs, with Mama Mia CD in car - at top of their voices, with water bottles as mics. Marvel at how they know all the words. But realise that, actually, you know them all too.

On the way down a long, bend-strewn road, to canoeing.

Then picture this -

26 deg warm ... little girl, sun cream basted, bit of a reluctant water rat, tooth still wobbly ... singing songs at the top of her voice - a bit of Adele and Michael Buble, some Flanders and Swan, a little Les Mis; just the river, ancient cliffs, and trees as audience ... learning how to paddle the canoe - cut into the water and pull ... marvelling at the speedy water skaters and the electric blue dragon flies (oblivious to the fact that they are all engaged in a mass dragon-fly copulation-fest) ... complaining about the heat ... and in charge of the picnic (apricots and cinnamon cake).

Pretty successful expedition down the Veserre (?sp), but certain that she doesn't want to do the eight hour trip down the Dordogne, tomorrow.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

A worried child's wondrous imagination ...

A lot of thought has gone into how the tooth fairy is going to get here (France), if needed -

Apparently, there is a whole company of tooth fairies, who live in England, in a village of tooth shaped houses, with lampshades for roofs and pencil chimneys. The houses are, naturally, built of teeth. When a child's tooth is about to fall out, the fairies get a day's warning, so that they can prepare for the journey. If they have to travel far, such as France, then they can borrow Lady Penelope's flying, pink car. Because a fairy can only fly for about an hour, before her wings get tired. And, in case you wondered, they can shrink the car when they are flying and store it in their fairy rucsac.

The tooth fairy won't get lost, because Lady Penelope's car has sat nav. And she won't take the ferry across the channel, because a fairy on a ferry sounds silly!

In case she gets hungry, she will have a bag of fruit peelings - apple, plum and banana. And it takes a lot of effort for fairies to pick fruit - 19, all pulling together to pull an apple off its stalk.

So, if any tooth fairy is listening (or reading), your trip is all planned down to the last, minute detail - so all you have to do is watch Thunderbirds, learn how to fly Lady Penelope's car and avoid the ferry.

To canoe or not to canoe

Of all the years we have holidayed, this is the first that has been a washout ... and we are comfortable and warm, in a well equipped appartment, with TV and laptops and occasional internet. So much better than the friends who holidayed in Cornwall, with small children, in a tent, in a muddy field, in torrential rain, last year.

Our kids can chat to their friends incessantly via the wonders of the internet without it becoming annoying - at least they are doing something and not complaining about the weather. And the vin  at lunch and dinner (not yet with breakfast) helps ... Inevitably though, the forecast now shows an improvement on Friday, which is the day we travel home.

Now debating (over crumble for breakfast!) whether we can canoe in the rain - if your bottom is going to be soggy, then your top may as well be too. Except that we have few warm clothes and it might be a bit chilly - 14deg max later today. But we would make the purveyors of canoe trips happy - so maybe we should make like Ratty and Mole.

Apologies to Kenneth Graham : "all along the backwater, through the rushes tall, Brits are a dabbling, wet tails all"

Monday, 25 July 2011

Of cake and crumble

Oops conquered ... cake baked (in a roasting tray!!). Apple and cinnamon, with cinnamon butter icing.

Doesn't look too beautiful ... but tastes pretty good. 

Rain persisted, so went on cooking (...procrastinating??) and a pear and apricot crumble (see earlier blog: Best ever crumble recipe) was created

Bout to serve it with vanilla ice cream.

If it goes on raining tomorrow ... watch this space for what this kitchen serves up next.

And how might I be procrastinating? And what is that oxymoron I mentioned at the weekend?

Best laid plans ... of cakes and rain

Surrounded by holiday-makers leaving early to go home, or travel south in search of sun ... our answer to the continuing precipitation -

Bake a cake ... of course!

First send husband out for baking powder (what's that in French?) and then wait for him to return. Panic (a little) while he is out because not sure I can remember recipe - then remember we have internet (occasionally). Find a recipe ... and realise we have plain flour not self raising and that we didn't put flour on the shopping list ... oops!

Then go to the on-site shop - they have no flour. And they also don't have a cake tin! Double oops!!

How to tell the girls when they get back with their dad ... could be triple oops!!!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Don't let your children read this

Why do we lie to our children? Where did that tradition come from? While I'm all for encouraging the magic of Christmas, isn't there enough in the giving and receiving of gifts? The sparkle in a child's eye on Christmas morning (the one that melts a parent's heart and makes all the preparations worthwhile) is part to do with the lack of sleep, the lights and baubles on the tree, and the excitement of the presents to unwrap. Would it really lose much, or anything, if the old man in the red suit were removed from the proceedings? I believe in stories, make believe and fairy tales, but don't try to tell my children that Snow White or Rumplestiltskin are true!

And where did the Easter Bunny spring from? We had Easter Eggs from our parents and friends, and even the occasional family egg hunt, but were never told that any of it came from the Easter Bunny, when I was a child. And as for the tooth fairy...

I am hook, line and sinker sunk in the pretence of the tooth fairy, as youngest still believes and has a very wobbly tooth. Much gratitude flows from her to the inventor of croissants, pain au chocolat and ice cream as any food firmer in texture causes the tooth to hurt. She has a worry though : does the tooth fairy visit France? She's usually pretty forgetful in our neck of the English woods, at the best of times. Lets hope she has a good map, doesn't get lost (fairy sat-nav??) and hasn't drunk too much of the local vin. And I suppose the fairy exchange rate is probably as awful as the human one. But at least, having wings she doesn't need to fork out for any petrol!

Or is there a French tooth fairy already on the look out for that little package left under the pillow.

And will she remind me? ...

Boys and their toys

Number 20 was your main problem ... too many in front to overtake ... sliding on the bends ... best time ... you had the fastest lap .... when he crashed out that changed the final positions ... you were fifth, not sixth ...

Boy talk, boy toys

All about speed and beating the next guy. But worth a bit of girly patience for the big grins on their faces.

Limited rain yesterday

But not enough to prevent swimming

And woke up to bright sunshine this morning ...

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Trebouchettes, rain and oxymorons

Rain, rain, rain - splish, splash, splosh.

Weather forecast this morning:

So wet weather activities required. I know I said that a little rain was comforting (for dowsing flames) but honestly a little less wouldn't go amiss.

It was, however, dry for much of yesterday, so we swam, slept in the car, visited a castle, slept at the castle, slept in the car, swam (inside because too cold and damp out) and slept and ate. A lot of collective sleeping!

The castle: Mediaeval fortress with trebouchettes (enormous catapults for flinging death and destruction at the enemy) and a labyrinthe of spiral stairs, narrow corridoors and stone cells ...  claustrophobia rising with every step.

All a bit too much for little legs ...

And so to today ... too cold to canoe, too wet for tennis, so swimming and shopping on the agenda.

Apparently, its warmer and drier at home.

As for that oxymoron ... later perhaps.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Double autoroute espresso

The problem with having a fire a week before the (revised) HDD - even with the best efforts of our wonderful builders who rebuilt the roof, replaced ceilings, plastered and installed dehumidifiers all in just 7 days (!!!!!) - is that when you start to drive you realise that you are not just tired, you are SO very, very tired that an infusion of caffeine straight into a vein would probably still be insufficient to keep you in the land of wakefulness.

Double espresso, biscuits and extra strong mints must have worked, because somehow we got here safely - to the Dordogne (a very long way down into France) and French rain ... which is pretty similar to English rain.

Now to plan wet weather activities ... and wonder what the builders are up to at home.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

The kindness of friends

What did I say last week about hating the pre-holiday rush to get jobs done - all those things we have put off doing for months, that suddenly have to be done by the deadline of the holiday departure date? Actual HDD was today - as intended, pre visitation from fire-services, in the middle of the night last week and lovely men in reflector jackets who put out the blaze in our roof:

A fire is quite a humbling experience - first there is the loss of control; the nagging worry that you failed to remain calm in a crisis; the realisation that you had all your priorities wrong - the importance of holiday planning, possessions, organisation, all evaporate in a puff of smoke and all that is left is family and the fact that everyone, including four legged friend is safe; then, there is the reaction of wonderful friends, who come in the dead of night to rescue the littler, frightened members of the family and whisk them away to somewhere warm for hot chocolate and cuddles, then feed us and house the one of us who was too scared to come home; and friends, who through phone texts and face-book, express their love and concern; and friends who spend an evening helping to sort water-damaged books, clothes and toys; and friends - our builders - who go beyond the call of builderly duty, to sweep, fix the imense hole in the roof, replace ceilings and plaster, all within a week - quite astonishing, and, in case you thought it, not at all due to a sense of guilt, as the fire had nothing to do with their being here.

Where once their was a ceiling ...

And then there's the daughter who fails her driving test two days later, through lack of concentration at a roundabout - What were we thinking? Why didn't we cancel? Of course she wasn't going to stand a fair chance of passing? Not after the pyrotechnics and its aftermath of sleeplessness and frenetic activity at home? Instead of frustration and disappointment, she got a lot of sympathy, more cuddles and a quick rebooking of a new test date.

HDD now rescheduled for later this week - after visit from electricians,  and compilation of inventory of destroyed and damaged furniture, bedding, clothes, toys (big Tiggrrr saturated and sitting rather forlornly on soaked sofa in skip), cameras, CDs and DVDs, music manuscripts etc etc etc ... The tidy up goes on and on ... and I procrastinate, trying to put it off when I've had enough ... or when I have decided that the ironing I must do before the new HDD, can come on holiday with us and either be ironed there, or create an 'ensemble' (... going to France after all!) of fashionably crumpled attire.

Friends - thank you.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Confusion justified

Remember what happened to me yesterday? Well ... I had another ride in the car this morning.

And guess where I am now


Great smells though, lots of other dogs to bark at; girls whose only purpose is to walk me, feed me, play with me, pick up you know what after me, and who don't have a partially cooked house to tidy up - so it could be worse, I suppose ...

Saturday, 16 July 2011

I'm a confused black lab

Well ... my family has had a very strange week:

First, they woke me at 3.30am on Tuesday morning, because they were trying to cook their house. If you have read my blog here before, then you will be aware of my thoughts regarding the wasteful human habit of cooking meat, but you would have thought they would have drawn the line at burning their house. There was a lot of shouting and noise and huge vehicles with flashing lights and men in yellow hats who climbed ladders and used hoses to put out the cooking efforts. It left an awful great hole in the roof of my house and it smells funny inside now - a bit like a damp, dead rabbit that had a sixty a day habit. Anyway, after all that excitement you would have thought things might have settled down a bit ... but no! Those builders, who had been moving walls, ripping up floors and putting doors where there hadn't been doors before, are back! They are actually pretty good this time, as my house already has a roof again. And the nice man with biscuits in his pockets is still here.

Just to add to my doggy confusion, I was taken for a ride in the car and this is something that doesn't happen very often and usually means something vaguely unpleasant might be afoot. I was right to be nervous. We went to visit the tall, scarey man, who lives in a white room; the man who stuck his finger where no man should ever put a finger, when  I was there the last time, after I'd eaten a rather tasteless furry thing that turned out to be made of beans and not meat. This time, he attacked me with a needle and then squirted something horrible up my nose. I really don't like him. But my owner does! I thought she loved me, but she paid him to hurt me - all very confusing.

And now, there is talk of another trip in the car for me. Of me having to go away. And of my human family going away too. Not sure if I can sleep tonight - fires, needles, holidays! Nightmares perhaps.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Naughty girl and (nearly) naughty boy

This was stuck onto her father's back by youngest child yesterday

Luckily it was removed before he noticed!

And this is a picture of temptation

"Look! I'm sitting. I'm being very good. There's food in there ... maybe if I get a bit closer ..."

And then ... mum shut the door.

Recipe for a busy, busy Sunday

Started this yesterday, but life got in the way. By life, I mean the impending panic associated with approaching holiday departure date. Why is this always such a frenetic time? Why do all the things we have delayed doing for months suddenly have to be done before we go on holiday?

So The Family Weekend became a weekend of eating in separate rooms, rushing our food down between jobs and children hiding from parents, or disappearing off to friend's houses lest they be given another chore. And of course the dog had to be entertained; the grass had to be cut; the etiolated greenhouse confined plants had to be planted out into the garden; friends and family had to be phoned and because carpets are coming later this week, skirting boards, walls, windows and doors all had to be and still have to be painted. So the paintbrush-wielding husband competed with the green-fingered, cook and bottle-washer for the enlistment of serfs to assist with their tasks ... and everyone ended up more tired and more in need of a holiday. And the dog still had to be walked.

And, as if that weren't enough, the busy Sunday got busier and busier ...

... floors had to be polished (which was enormously satisfying until the overnight coat of oil on the wooden floor turned to jelly - too much oil/wood saturated apparently, according to builder - and the electric floor polisher gave up with an final explosion of polishing rings thrown in a noisy tantrum out across the floor! Quite dramatic really, but then had to do it by hand - or shuffle of feet on an oily sheet; great for the leg muscles!)

... old planters had to be filled

... jelly was made and bottled ... and labelled by youngest

... cookery lesson was given to middle daughter (shortly before she escaped to a friend's)

... this is what she did when she came back, but only after cook, bottle-washer, jelly-bottler, jelly-floorer and oilman had refueled the tractor

... and at the end of the day, it was all too much for the jelly label maker

So, what of today - still have to varnish skirting boards and stain doors before carpets come ; book kennel cough vac for four legged friend who will undoubtedly be delighted to see the vet again; catch up with washing and (mountain of) ironing; submit my story to another publisher (sad face - rejected again); feed children; and remember to feed dog. 

Procrastination continues ... right up to holiday departure time probably!

Friday, 8 July 2011

A little smile ... about nothing

This is the sort of ridiculous and funny conversation that could only happen among siblings -

It started with a throwaway comment about language and made-up words - then, son said, "nihil" and sister replied, "That's not made up. It's Latin! And it means nothing."

At this point, youngest, who had been sitting quietly between them, muttering made-up rhyming nonsense, piped up, " If nihil is really a word, then it can't mean nothing - that's impossible!"

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Weeds, weeds everywhere ...

                   ... and what a crop to eat!

When I was a child, I gardened as a child - plastic bucket and spade, wooden barrow, toy tractor - and I believed everything my father (the head gardener) said.
But now that I am the head gardener, I have put away those childish things and replaced them with an arsenal of metal implements with which to attack the garden.
Only problem is that it would appear to be a pretty ineffective range of weaponry:

"The fruit cage"

"The vegetable patch"

Or perhaps it is the head gardener who lacks the green fingers, or the time of her father. He defined a weed as being " a plant in the wrong place". If that is the case, then there are an awful lot of misplaced, confused, lost or vagrant roots in our garden. Some of which I ripped from the earth today.

It is amazing what you find when you remove the squatters -

Spot the raspberry!

Sadly though, my dear builder-addled gooseberry thief has become a raspberry thief and a red-currant thief, now that I have shown him where to find them!

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Slow plod of pain

Why is it that when you stub and slice the skin off your little toe (big "Ow!") the body responds by becoming more clumsy than ever before and you spend the subsequent few days bashing the same toe (more and bigger "OW!!") on every piece of furniture, jutting piece of scaffolding, supermarket trolley (particularly big "OW!!!"), and brick or bucket left lying around by the builders?

Walk then becomes a slow, hobbling plod with toe painfully squashed into an old pair of trainers and dog looks puzzled and is unusually attentive - which was quite touching until he stood on my toe!

Biggest lump of marrow-bone, dog's bulging eyes have ever seen, has a name - Guilty Conscience. My way of trying to make it up to him for the past few months of imprisonment, as builders ripped his home apart and then rebuilt it. Suspect he is quite happy about my guilt and quite hoping that it lasts a bit longer!

Sweet dreams?

Night, night dear sleepy boy.

Thoughts of dog (perhaps): "Life is just so confusing at the moment - if its not a new builder to bark at, its a wall knocked down or a door where there wasn't one before - the route to the food bowl keeps changing! Today there was a pile of bricks and a bucket of sand in the way!

And yesterday, something funny was happening with balls in my garden - I just had to complain at all the noise. And there was water squirting everywhere. And then they cooked meat - cooked it! What a waste; give it to me raw any day.

Today, there was a lifting truck and two men up a ladder. One of them keeps dog biscuits in his pocket.

No wonder I'm tired."

Or is he just twitching at the paw, thinking of rabbits, and rabbit droppings, and gooseberries (still some left) and the nice man with biscuits in his pocket?

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

And yes!

I did buy a lottery ticket.

Because if I won, I would give most of it away.

And walk the dog more.

Warning - no humour in this blog. And nothing about the dog.

Mini rant - which may evolve into a major rant -  follows, and sorry, its not terribly funny ... more deadly serious actually.

Surely, there is something obscene in a massive Euro-lottery jackpot when hundreds of thousands of people in central Africa are facing drought and starvation. Their plight is hard to watch on our television screens - emaciated children in our living rooms, while we sit eating our dinner - the fact that we have living rooms, televisions and dinner, making us among the luckiest people on earth. And that's without winning the (monetary) lottery (we've won the lottery of life already)!
Hopefully, no-one will be brazen enough to keep such an enormous lottery jackpot entirely for themselves. I so want to see a headline saying "£100 million lottery winning given to ... "  And if they do keep it all, they should feel real shame and I hope every mouthful of expensive, extravagant and unnecessary delicacy  is tainted with the bitterness of greed, every designer garment burns their skin and every extra ounce of carbon, expended at the cost of excessive foreign travel, chokes their lungs. Realise I'm sounding a bit like the wicked godmother at the beginning of  a fairy tale, but I do wish I had witching powers and could put a curse on them, or cast a spell to make them charitable.

We all need to do more. But some of us are given the opportunity to do more than others.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Thank you!

Reckon I'll hit 500 pageviews today!!!

Thank you to all of you out there in the blog-o-sphere who have taken the time to read my musings. Its been a really enjoyable 2 months. I hope you'll come back later for more ...

Dog hot - needs watered. Enjoyed his walk this morning

Where's the footpath gone!

When a hairdryer rescues the BBQ ...

How to make a Happy Sunday even better:

Add a water slide and make little people (and their feet) very happy indeed.

Next, overcome all the adversities that try to ruin the day:

  • laugh at the burnt rolls, panic briefly, then find that friends eat them anyway (nice friends)
  • decide never to buy particular brand of BBQ briquettes again - "What brand?" - "Crap brand!"
  • Solve cold BBQ problem with hairdryer!!!!!!!
  • Eat lunch at 4pm
  • ignore thunderbugs, beetles and  flying ants, but resolve not to use fluorescent green plastic cups outside again

Play lots of tennis, eat, drink and make much merriment.

Resolve to repeat again soon.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Recipe for a happy Sunday: part 2

Happy Sunday guaranteed. Here's how to make it work:

  • children happily sleep-overed and now taking dog on a long hot walk (intention is to exhaust dog and possibly 7 year olds too)
  • Caprese salad. This is a bit of Italian heaven taught to me by my sister who is lucky enough to live in beautiful Tuscany - the small, the taste, the colours are all quintessentially Italian. You need good ripe tomatoes, mozarella, best olive oil, drizzle of balsamic vinegar, salt and lots of basil. Slice, tear, douse and arrange as you like on a serving dish - preferably an hour or so in advance, to allow the flavours to ooze and mingle. Buon apetito! 
  • Sun - and lots of it. It's going to be a scorcher - those attending Wimbledon best remember their hats.
  • Strawberry pavlova (can't give you the recipe for this as that would be plagiarism - look at recent Delia, Waitrose: the combination of mascarpone and fromage frais in the filling is an inspired deliciousness). I drizzle a sticky reduction of summer fruits, sugar and Cointreau over the finished pud - adds a bit of contrasting colour and extra yumminess).
  • Sleepy, contented adults who have all shared the same hectic past few days - in need of rest, recuperation, the odd glass or two of something chilled and possibly a bit of tennis
  • And - most essentially -  invite friend who is brilliant with all things meaty for the BBQ ... again.
Hope you have a good Sunday too.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

When a dessert is a desert ...

Okay ... so it would appear that I can't spell. Or, to be precise, I have a problem distinguishing my deserts from my desserts (see Best Ever Gooseberry Crumble Recipe blog below).

So what would a desert for dessert look like? I guess it would either be a plate full of sand, or an empty plate, neither of which was my intention when describing crumble - although, if you get the mix wrong and it is a bit too dry, the topping can resemble sweet sand, just not quite so tooth-grindingly gritty.

Anyway, I've learnt the error of my spellings, at leest until my next mistake ...

Friday, 1 July 2011

Best ever gooseberry crumble recipe

As promised, but will have to be quick, as late and have a busy day tomorrow. And have to wear a hat!

So, for a really good gooseberry crumble

  • first pick, top and tail the gooseberries and tip into an oven proof dish
  • drizzle fruit with freshly squeezed orange juice, or the wholesome boxed juice that has the 'bits left in' (not too much or the cooked fruit will be too wet)
  • sprinkle over 2 - 3 desert spoons of soft brown sugar (more or less depending on how sweet you like the fruit)
  • add finely chopped crystallised ginger, if liked
  • next, get a large bowl and tip in the dried ingredients for the topping - this is the complicated bit for me to explain, as after years of making crumble, I no longer weigh anything. You need equal amounts of 1. plain flour, porridge oats and a crumbled weetabix (roughly half flour to half oats and weetabix) and 2. white granulated sugar and demerara sugar (equal amounts) - so essentially, the flour mixture equals the sugar mixture. My basic rules are - guestimate (you can't go far wrong), and the bigger the dish the more mix you will need. You can also add a teaspoon of cinnamon at this stage, or ground ginger if you didn't put crystallised in with the fruit. Then it's time for the butter - melted. The aim is to coat the dried ingredients with butter - I shove the whole lot in the microwave and use a big spoon to mix it all together, but if you don't mind getting sticky, you can use your fingers. What you want is some lumpy bits and some 'breadcrumbs' so add the butter gradually until it looks right.
  • sprinkle the topping over the fruit, ideally so that you have a layer about an inch thick. Don't press it down!
  • place the dish in an oven at about 180 deg (bottom right oven of Aga) for about half an hour, check after 20mins that the top isn't burning and leave until golden brown and crunchy. The fruit might bubble through at the edges, but don't worry as this will be a lovely, caramelised, fruity rim to your crumble.
  • best served straight from the oven with good vanilla ice cream. Mmmmmmmmmm ... yummy!

Variations on a theme - try with apple; apple and bramble (my favourite); rhubarb; apple and apricot; summer berry mix (sharp! - needs extra sugar with fruit); and plum.

Time for bed. Magic, midnight fairy has jobs to do, dog to water, and must stop procrastinating before sleep.