Just Now I Am......


Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Making lists. Holiday lists -things to read, things to do, things to wear, things to eat, things to drink and things for George to remember to do before he leaves the house on Saturday to join us in Cornwall (visions of taps left running, windows left open, laptops left switched on and bursting into flames......).

Reading The Cure of Souls -number 4 in the Merrily Watkins series by Phil Rickman. May need to take the remaining 8 on holiday.

Needing a haircut. Desperately. Another attempt to grow my hair fails and I am hairdresser-bound tomorrow...sigh.

Watching the rain fall.

Hoping I won't be watching it fall in Cornwall.

Looking through my blog notebook at all my post ideas and wondering why I don't feel like converting any of them into actual posts.

Thinking that maybe blogging works best if you don't plan but just go where inspiration takes you, and also that trying to write 15 posts a month is wildly optimistic.

Eating leftover bean soup for lunch with toast and sausage and onion baguettes for supper.

Wishing I hadn't bought so much flipping lettuce again. Just before we go away as well. What was I thinking?

Feeling a breath of autumn in the air.

The Quince Tree will be on holiday for a couple of weeks but may still pop up on Instagram.

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In My Kitchen


Sunday, 10 August 2014

When I could tear myself away from  Merrily Watkins I managed to take a few pictures of what has been happening in my kitchen this week.

~ Saturday breakfast. Scotch pancakes with butter and golden syrup (8 oz self-raising flour, 1 teaspoon of cream of tartar, 2 eggs and half a pint of milk).

~ Baked pork chops with rosemary, lemon and garlic.

~ I picked the whitecurrants which have done a lot better than my red and black currants. I used them all to make this cheesecake. It's very similar to this one For this version I whipped a 170ml carton of double cream and added a 250g tub of cream cheese, 75g sugar and the juice of half a lemon. I spread this creamy mixture over a base made out of 300g crushed digestives and 100g melted butter.

~ Baked salmon with a relish made of chopped sun-dried tomatoes, black olives, capers, lemon juice, basil and olive oil. Served with a salad made of equal quantities of cooked puy lentils and peas, dressed with chopped chives, lemon juice and olive oil (from Real Fast Food by Nigel Slater).

~ Plum and nectarine muffins. A single nectarine and a handful of plums were getting rather squashy. I chopped them up and added them to a basic muffin mixture with some cinnamon.

Tiny snail (not in my kitchen).

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Cake of the Month ~ Plum Traybake


Thursday, 7 August 2014

Let's revive the Cake of the Month post shall we? 

What better way is there to celebrate beautiful seasonal fruit than to eat it naked* and unadorned?

The answer is, of course, to take a picture of it and then add sugar, butter, flour and eggs and bake it. Cake is always the answer.

For this easy traybake I consulted Mary Berry's Ultimate Cake Book and took her basic all-in-one traybake recipe as a model and added ground almonds and juicy locally grown purple plums. I'm afraid I forgot to check what variety they are but they look like Marjorie's Seedling. If you are wondering what a traybake is I think it's what would be called a sheet cake in North America.

Plum Traybake

Grease and baseline a rectangular cake tin about 9" by 12"

In a large bowl beat thoroughly
8 oz (225g) soft butter
8 oz (225g) caster sugar
7 oz (200g) self-raising flour
3 oz (85g) ground almonds (or 3 oz of self-raising flour)
2 teaspoons of baking powder
4 eggs
4 tablespoons of milk
half a teaspoon of almond extract (optional)

Scrape the batter into the tin and level the surface.

Halve and remove the stones of 9 -12 plums
Slice them or chop them into small chunks or leave halved -as you wish. I sliced mine.
Scatter them over the cake batter.

Bake at 180°c (160°fan oven) for 35-40 minutes

The cake will rise to cover the plums and they will end up on the bottom of the cake resulting in a delicious squidgy pudding cake to eat warm with cream or custard.

A note about almond flavours
I  seem to come across a lot of  people who say they don't like almonds and therefore don't want to eat cakes with ground almonds (almond meal) in them. Far be it from me to tell people what they do or don't like, I do wonder if they are confusing the flavour of sweet almonds with that of bitter almonds. 

Bitter almond is extracted from the kernel of the nut and is the predominant flavour of marzipan and is what you get in those little bottles of almond extract. It is often added to pastries and cakes which also have ground almonds in. I love it. Sweet almond is simply the nut, mild and milky and unlikely to upset anyone.

*In this instance the fruit is naked, not me -that's just when I clean the bathroom.

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The Year In Books ~ Merrily Watkins Mysteries


Monday, 4 August 2014

There is nothing I like better than discovering a new author who has thoughtfully written a whole shelf of books for me to get my teeth into. I love a good crime series. I particularly like them when they have a strong sense of place, for example Ann Cleeves' Shetland books (new one out in September) and Elly Griffiths' Ruth Galloway books which are set in Norfolk. I like my crime fiction to have an interesting detective be they professional police officers or amateur sleuths. I like a recurring cast of characters, I like a bit of humour and I like a clever involving plot. Phil Rickman's Merrily Watkins Mysteries promise to fulfill all my requirements.

Merrily Watkins is a vicar, a single mother to a teenage daughter and the diocesan exorcist for Hereford. The stories combine crime with the supernatural. I don't usually have any time for the supernatural but I am interested in seasonal customs and folklore and am finding the mix very enjoyable, the fact that Merrily's stomping ground is not a million miles from mine is an added attraction.

I'm halfway through the first one The Wine of Angels and have the next two ready and waiting to see me through August although at the rate I'm going I may need the next three as well. There are, joy of joys, twelve so far.

I am extremely grateful to Anny of Dreaming in Stitches for putting me onto Merrily. For more information on Phil Rickman's books visit his site here and to see what everyone else is reading in August for The Year In Books go to Laura's blog here.

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