Tuesday, 20 July 2010

shreddies are for cakes, not just for breakfast

The easiest cake in the world. It got to be the day before playgroup breaking up day and son mentioned in an offhand way that he had told his play-worker that he would bring in a cake for her. So rather than produce one of my unfailingly unfluffy sponges from the hands of cement (my hands just don't do fluffy), I reasoned that a shreddie cake would be the best bet.
It is a malt loaf, and it's DENSE but it's lovely with a bit of butter. It is forgiving, you don't need to measure. I use either a mug or a jug. My loaf tin will work well with approx 400ml.

Take yourself :1 cup of / 400ml of :
self raising flour
fruit (I use apricots and raisins, I also add chocolate)
sugar (caster is best for a lighter loaf, brown for a denser one).
Squoosh the shreddies up in the milk. Add the fruit and sugar. Sift in the flour. Stir. Bake for 60-75 mins at Gas 4. Leave to cool, best eaten after it's sat for a day.
How easy is that?

Friday, 16 July 2010

vintage recipes and food refusal

My two are so naughty at the moment. They have both realised that they can get attention off of the other one and onto THEM far more easily if they are naughty. One of the problems with having 2 so close is that they learn each others bad habits rapidly as well as good. I am usually very good at ignoring behaviour rather than pandering to it and only intervene when necessary (blood, wounds, screams that rouse neighbours). I want them to learn to get attention from good behaviour, not bad.

Unfortunately, the time when my fuse is short and they win out every time is over the dinner table. I am torn between my sensible desire to ignore them and my desire to shove something, anything down their throats. Daughter has learned to get a reaction from observing her brothers sleek "I don't actually like this now, I liked it the other day but not now" and copying it. From one day to the next I never know what they will actually eat. They will both blankly refuse the meal presented to them and then say "it's horrible, I won't eat anything tonight". I know I can ignore it. I say "Ok, wait till we have all finished and then you can get down". I ignore their pleas for snacks and milk. "No, you did not eat your dinner", but the next morning, after a night without food they are VILE and it is impossible to get them dressed without screams. So, they need to eat something.
I have spent weeks buying old 60's , 70's and 80's cookbooks from charity shops. The photos are vile, the food looks awful. But it was what I ate. And I ate it. I even remember liking some of it. Either way, I thought a week of "What mummy used to have to eat with no snacks" would do them, and me some good. Stocking up on mince was probably needed.

So, take this cookbook from 1973. I remember this from my Mums' kitchen. Nobody, I think, would now want to eat the "Savoury egg pie" consisting of bread, canned oxtail soup, cheese and , get this, peanuts, or the terribly names "Cottage cheese and orange mould". They probably didn't eat it then. But, as a challenge, here is my proposed week from a 1973 cookbook. I'll tell you how it went next week.
Mon: chicken croquettes with grilled tomatoes and cheese salad. (As this is late posting, I can tell you, this went down VERY well)
Tues: Family Cornish Pasty (Likewise!)
Weds: Macnamara pie (seriously, a pie made with powdered tomato soup!) and lamb chops
Thursday: Somerset Chicken Casserole
Friday: Spaghetti Moussake. A recipe involving canned, yes, canned spaghetti and mince. And you know what, I bet they eat it.
Saturday: I've had enough. Back to River Cottage.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

I went out with my friends and we schmoozed

I made it to big London Town this weekend for a lovely Saturday with my friends, Cathy, Nancy, and Naomi. We had all ditched the kids and had a lovely day browsing the faces at the National Portrait Gallery, eating lots and lots of yummy Dim Sum in China Town and then meandering the fabric shops of Berwick Market. Oh, my. How nice it was to be able to fiddle faddle around these shops with friends who chatted and browsed alongside without having to chase toddlers and cut things short. We spent hours looking at cambrics, cottons and silks. I got a yard of a lovely cotton print which will be my first garment when my Ebay target reaches sewing machine level. The conversation was all about what we'd make if... and when... and so we repaired to a boozer and had a sly pint (in the day!) and chatted more. All of a sudden, I wasn't just "mum" I was me again, and even though we did (of course) talk about our children, I was suddenly doing it with friends, and I realised how very much I missed being able to swap chat and ask for advice with friends so easily.I am lonely out here in the wilds. We all madly exchanged stories and did that thing that women do so well, where one raises an issue and all the others say , "well, for me it's" and sudenly the issue is in a context, and it's all so much better. I had to go all too soon, the Fens are just so darn inaccessible (buses from March are not exactly regular. Well, regular like the sunrise, maybe) and I hadn't caught up nearly enough, there was so much more to ask and say. On the train, as I waited to see the turbines that meant I was almost home, I was thinking "Arse! I meant to ask about that...and see about this..." but then, that is all the more reason to do it again. And the extra spring in my step the day after means I will.

Fruitfly genocide

On return from France, we discovered that the house had univited guests. 8 billion of them in the form of the pesky fruitfly. Beloved of scientists on account of their easily managed reproduction and genetics, it is the same trait that makes them hated by me. Fruitflies reproduced within 8 hours. HOURS. And all it takes for them to do it is a merest trace of fruit juice or skanky water. Imagine how many "traces" there are in a house of toddlers (I'll save this bit of banana for later behind my playmobil.. I'll just see what my juice cup does upside down...etc etc). So, not wishing to live in a house resembling a horror flick, I commenced battle. Constantly walking around spraying chemicals is also out in a house of toddlers, so I had to do it by stealth.
Firstly, track them to their source. This is easier said than done. A teeny tiny trace of squished banana is sufficient for them to start their orgy of reproduction. So I cleaned the house, and I mean, cleaned. Then, I checked all the drains. Bleach down plugholes is NOT enough, these eggs are Nuclear war proof. Caustic soda is the order of the day. Then, take ALL food and drink away, and lock it up tight. Now you have removed food sources. Now it's a war of attrition.
Best tackled at evening and night, when the buggers settle. It is then that you realise the true extent of their numbers. Every time you sip your wine, there they are...... My best weapon was apple cider vineagr. Fruitflies are attracted to the yeast in fermenting products, hence the love of beer. So, get yourself lots of tumblers, and a big bottle of apple cider vinegar. It smells nicer than wine vinegar. Then pour an inch in each tumbler. Add 2-3 drops of washing up liquid and agitate. The soap prevents a miniscus forming on the vinegar, so when the little sods land to drink, they fall in and drown. I woke and found the previously pale cider coloured liquid to be absolutely BLACK with flies, a true indication of the problem. Of course, this method is useless if you are soppy about the sanctity of insect life, but trust me, if you have a true infestation, you wouldn't be.
Once you have your weapons, use them constantly. The war needs to be waged for at least 4 weeks, to catch any new hatches. And then, you must always, ever after, wash all your cans, bottles and cups of nice resides before recycling, move your bins FAR from the house, and never ever pour sweet residues of anything down the sink ever again. And even dry up immediately. The drippings of drying plates are manna to the fruitfly. And here is where the original source of infestation came from: bananas. When you buy them, bring them home and wash them. Fruitflies love them, will go crazy for them, and often lay eggs on them to hatch as you get them home. We had banana the few days before our holiday, although we'd eaten them, the eggs had been on the skin and hatched in the fruit bowl. They are so tiny you can't really see them. And then the skin goes in the bin and........9 trillion fruitflies. They also like flowers, and hitch lifts from the garden, wherby they feed off the sulphur in flower water. Plus, they can live on damp mops, sponges, flannels. Even damp houseplant soil. If you've done everything and they;re still coming, repot your plants, and give the roots a good wash.
And I hate their red eyes. I've got another 3 weeks to go before the all clear............

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

All the fatties in France stay inside.

Just back from a lovely week in Normandy, staying in a chalet and wandering the beaches of Omaha, Gold, and Arromanches. The kids built sandcastles on endless empty beaches, that were there to play on because of the bravery of the men who died, landing on them. The Mulberry harbours are still there, boats darting in and out of them. Poignant, but somehow uplifting. The small towns and villages along the D-Day coast are so welcoming, everywhere there are messages of thanks to the British, American, Dutch and Canadian soldiers that liberated them. The graves are spotless, and very thought provoking. We did not have to fight on our land. I hope, that if we had, we would have had as mcuh respect for the soldiers that helped as they do.

So it was a week of eating, sand, and wandering, encouraging the kids not to be petrified of the large mouse thing (poor French girl in a suit in 30 degrees) that was put on to entertain / scare them. I managed a morning away, wandering Bayeaux (skipping the tapestry, seen it already, though it would stand 20 visits), and having a long lunch. Then it struck me. There are no fat women in France. This despite the fact that EVERY meal and snack is 90% fat, even the salads come drenched in oil. The portions are larger than your head and everyone eats 3 courses every meal. Wandering a supermarket, I was dumbstruck by the aisles ans aisles of chocolate based snacks, and it was impossible to find cereal that wasn't chocolate. Even the Special K came with chocolate in it. Bowing to the inevitable, we purchased a tub of Nesquick for the kids milk. On getting back to the chalet, we found it was.... wait for it....BABY nesquick.

So where are all the fat people? All the young women are skinny, skinny, skinny and dressed in taupe. All the elderly women are skinny, skinny, skinny, suntanned and have small dogs. It's the 30-45 women that are gone. I think they all suddenly put it on around the waist when they hit their thirties, have a decade eating inside, saying "sod it" in French, then spend 5 years on exercise bikes in front of TV drama before emerging thin again.