Thursday 31 October 2013

Just a little bit annoying...

Welcome to my new follower Ellie O.

Yesterday was our first really cold morning at 2C  but we still didn't have the heating on. We did however, burn a few logs in the wood-burner in the evening. It was colder inside the house than outside.

I could have sworn I had seen on several blogs, the recipes for Sage & Onion stuffing/sausage loaf but couldn't find them when I needed to, so made up my own.

All on-line versions had minced pork added to them which I didn't have/want. Anyhow, this is what I did:

Sage, onion and sausage loaf

1 packet of Sage and Onion stuffing made up with 50ml less water than the instructions. 1oz strong cheddar - grated, 4 thick sausages and 1 beaten egg (think it would have been okay though without the egg).

Everything was mixed together, then patted into shape. OIL OR GREASEPROOL PAPER THE PAN! My mistake first time around, was in not put it on baking parchment or it needed to be oiled all over before putting into the pan!
It was roasted in a 190C oven for one hour, along with some new (ish) potatoes. As you can imagine, I couldn't get it out of the pan in one piece but lesson learnt there though!

We served half of it with half of the roast potatoes, carrots and swede plus half the onion gravy. It was delicious.

Sorry about the photograph, for some reason, it downloaded into coloured bands:(
My second disappointment was knitting. I had started another hat for myself, having decided to make it on larger needles so it wouldn't flatten my hair so much.

The rib went very well. I had seen on Y--t---, how doing one row purl and the other knitting through the back of the loop, gave a twisted stocking stitch so thought I would give it a whirl. I also decided to knit it in two colours. I must have been mad, should have stuck with knitting in two different colours.

Somewhere along the line, I had dropped stitches without noticing. When I finally did, I pulled back to the mistake (first line above the rib), then no matter how hard I tried, just could not pick up the stitches and am afraid to say, had a paddy and threw it in the bin.

Naughty me, I could have unpicked the whole thing and begun again but didn't. So there you go, lessons to self:

1) line the tin when baking a stuffing and sausage roll.
2) try a new stitch or multiple colours but not BOTH!

You see, never too old to learn!!!

Tuesday 29 October 2013

A night in

Last night, our first since losing B., we had a combined Chinese meal/home cinema. E. who lives near a takeaway, brought us our chosen meal for 3. There were 4 of us present and we always get a meal for one person less (if you see what I mean). Personally, I would prefer to just chose my own meal but everyone else likes a mixture.

We ate, drank and talked from 6:30pm until around 7:45pm. The few plates and cutlery we had used were washed and dried and we moved to the lounge to watch a film. We had decided to watch a romance based film, as being the first time without B., E. and T. felt they wanted something light!

On our DVD player, I have a folder which contains my most favourite films. It currently has in it, 'City of Angels', 'The Family Stone','Kingdom of Heaven' (with the most amazing sound track entitled Crusade, and the one we watched, which is 'The Wedding Date'.

DB couldn't remember seeing it but did remember it after a while but both E. and T. hadn't seen it. For a 2** film, we all thought it was great, just idling along at a nice pace. It's main actors are Debra Messing and Dermot Mulroney.

Anyway, we all enjoyed it, had a hot drink afterwards and some more chat. Sorted out our walk for next week and everyone left around 10:00pm. A great night.

Monday 28 October 2013

Faggots - a different recipe

So far so good on the storm. We have lots of rain and again, the back garden is under a few inches of water. So far though, no nasty gusts!

I had previously made faggots using one of the three on Frugal Queens site. Today, we made this one of hers here

Our ingredients were slightly different as I didn't quite have enough of one things. So here is what we did:

1lb basic pork shoulder steaks (the ones you normal stew) - minced
1lb Sainsbury Value bacon pieces - minced
1/2lb value chicken livers - finely chopped
1 x 170g packet of sage and onion stuffing made up with 100ml less water than stated.

Mix all the above together. You really will need to get yours hands dirty! When we do this stage again, we shall cover and leave overnight to 'harden' the mixture a little.
Test the flavour by frying a small spoonful in a little oil. Doing this enables you to adjust seasoning and flavouring so you know you will love to eat them.

Using an ice cream scoop, we placed 'balls' of the mixture onto a greased deep pan and baked them at 200C for 30 minutes. Whilst they were roasting, we made a large pan of gravy.

5 medium onions were sliced and fried. Quite a few baby tomatoes were added and softened. Flour with pepper and paprika and dried sage were added, then it was topped up with 4 pints boiled water plus enough stock cubes (3 in our case), to get the flavour correct. We also added 3 tablespoons tomato purée.

When the first tray had cooked for 30 minutes,  1/4 of the gravy was added and the tray put back into the oven for another 20 minutes.

Once done, the tray was removed and another 1/4 of the gravy added and the tray left to go cold.

The other half of the faggots were cooked in the same way. Once both lots were cold, they were bagged up with some gravy and frozen. We had 2 each that night with some potatoes and carrots.

All in (and remember, we were 1/2lb short in liver to make this), we managed to get 21 faggots, plus the gravy for £5.80. Maybe not the cheapest but the best to date and we shall definitely make this version again. We had gone off the strong liver taste of the first version we tried and felt the chicken livers greatly improved the flavour.

What would we change? The sage and onion stuffing. We really like Paxo and I'm afraid own brand just does not do it for us. Other than that, absolutely nothing.

Saturday 26 October 2013

Slippers and dishcloths

I finished knitting my slippers for this year, about 2 weeks ago. Finally, after 2 washes in the machine (could curse myself as I did them on too low a temperature the first time), they felted.

They were stretched onto my feet to shape them, then very carefully removed and left to dry. You usually need to re-shape them after removing as the back part goes out of shape!

The toes are different colours as I didn't think I would have enough wool to do them both in one colour (and I didn't as it happens). I cannot tell you how warm they keep your feet. They are very comfortable and not at all slippery. I shall just buy some fleece liners then I'll be ready.

Also, just finished and washed another dishcloth.
Two more to go to make 7, then we'll change over to them. We use one cloth per day to keep down any bugs that might feel like breeding on them. If they get too stained, they will be soaked overnight in a week solution of nappy cleanser.

Thursday 24 October 2013

Elaine's Rissoles

Welcome to my new follower via Bloglovin - Kim Chapman.

Following on from my chilli con carne, here is what happened with the remaining 150g of minced steak. Our butcher calls it minced steak rather than minced beef as their minced beef has a higher fat content!

I used the recipe as per Elaine's instruction here . I used 3 sad looking, pencil thickness leeks finely chopped and brown sauce as we had run out of Worcestershire sauce. Lots and lots of black pepper and a little salt went into them. As we had them with vegetables and chilli gravy, we couldn't really tell if they needed more seasoning. When I make them again, and I will, we shall put celery salt into them to give the mix a possible extra kick.

Elaine suggests rolling in beaten egg and polenta/breadcrumbs. I hate to use an egg up this way if it can be helped (a kickback from our war ration years). We decided to use 1lb of mash rather than 400g and shape the mix into patties, which were covered in seasoned flour and fried in a little oil. TOP TIP - once in the hot oil in the pan, do not move for several minutes to allow the base to colour and firm up.

We got 6 patties (one missing from the picture as I am having it for lunch whilst DB is out).
We served them (2 1/2 each) with mashed carrots and swede and the chilli con carne gravy from the previous day. They were about the size of fish cakes.
My sister used to make something similar using corned beef and Marguerite Patten in her war cookery books does something similar with sausage meat.

Tuesday 22 October 2013

Home made high street eating...

I found half a packet of puff pastry in the freezer the other day and thought I had better use it up before it developed freezer burn!

Before rolling, I cut it in half. I had in my mind to make four individual pies so needed tops and bottoms. Paprika spiced vegetables had already been made. I didn't have any spinach so used lettuce instead - works just as well. The back of the fridge was also hiding some feta style cheese so that was also utilized.

Each pie had some paprika mixture and cheese put on their bases with a sprinkling of celery salt and black pepper.
Their lids were popped on:
And they were baked in the oven. I never waste an egg on the top of pastry, so my baking tends to be a little on the lightly coloured side! They were served with lettuce, carrot and tomato salad, all from the garden.
All the scraps of pastry were pushed together and used to make a dessert for another couple of days. A base was rolled out, pricked with a fork and had a lining of Elderflower and Vanilla Jelly, plus a light sprinkling of breadcrumbs.
Layers of pear and russet apple, plus a little cinnamon sugar, filled in the pie base. The last remaining scraps were used to make an open top.
It was baked until done.
One quarter each was eaten as is, for dessert one night. The next night, we had the remaining savoury pies and the other half of the pudding, with some custard. The pears had yielded a little too much juice so that was poured off to stop the pastry going soggy overnight.

All in all, two lovely meals for very little money. Probably less than that high street store would charge for an individual pie!

Monday 21 October 2013

Using up to make some more

Welcome to my new followers John Wooldridge and Angie Cartmel via Bloglovin - glad to have you aboard the old Norfolk Express - hang on tightly!

I love this time of year when some days are warm and some cold. The warm ones remind you of the summer just passed and the cold ones, the winter days to come. Every warm day saves fuel even the wet ones we are currently experiencing!

We have been eating up the few remaining meals in our freezer from last year and just about managed to empty one drawer. The rest of them are filled with fruit, vegetables and a few baking things. Now I can begin again to devise meals that can be eaten one day and several portions frozen for others.

Today is one of those days and I have decided to make chilli con carne. Regardless of what recipes state, you can use just vegetables, all kinds of meat and anything in-between such as fish or paneer.  A trip to our local butchers obtained some sausages for the freezer plus 2 lbs of minced beef. 1lb was put away for another day into the freezer, the other pound had 150g removed to try Elaine's rissoles recipe here the rest went into the meal.

We like a little meat and lots of vegetables and will often make this with far less meat than the 350g used today. Anyway, a selection of vegetables were peeled and diced. Today they included 1/2 lb tomatillo's, 1 courgette and 3 medium carrots. I grow tomatillo's, if you don't have any add some fresh tomatoes plus a tablespoon of lemon juice for that acidic kick!

Once they were prepared, 1 teaspoon of whole cumin seed and 1/2 teaspoon of caraway were dry fried in the pan. Then 2 tablespoons of oil were added, along with two medium sliced onions. When the onions were softened, the mince and one tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce went in. I kept stirring until all released juices had vanished. Another tablespoon of oil can be added to lightly brown the mince.

All the prepared vegetables were added, plus 1 teaspoon chilli flakes, 2 tins of chopped tomatoes, a 2 inch squeeze of garlic paste and 3 stock cubes. Enough water was added to bring it near the top of the vegetables. The pan was brought to the boil, lid added and turned down to a long, slow simmer.
When nearly ready, two tablespoons of tomato paste and 1 sieved level tablespoon of cocoa powder (not drinking chocolate) were then stirred in. Real dark chocolate can be added instead but the powder works well once stirred in. I got this tip from a Mexican chap we were once acquainted with who told us they normally used chocolate chilli stock cubes in this dish.

Three things can now happen to thicken and finish it. You could thicken it with some cornflour and water,  or take around 1/4 of the chilli out and use a stick blender in it to puree and add back in, or you could add (I did this) two tablespoons of instant potato powder.  Once done, it is put back into the main pan then one tin of chickpeas and one of kidney beans are added to cook through.

Check for seasoning (I needed to add lots of pepper) and serve with rice or whatever you fancy. As I was serving up on each plate (two), a similar amount was decanted into containers for freezing. The plateful we were having for tea also had a little grated cheese on top!
 In the end, we managed to get 4  cartons. That was 5 meals for 2 people. Of course it depends on how much you serve up but we find 1 1/2 ladles enough for each of us.
Not sure of the total cost but it is quite low. I know this 350g of minced steak cost us £2.67 and the 150g for another night was 59p. All in all, for 5 chilli con carne meals for 2 adults, quite a good price.

Saturday 19 October 2013

Upcycling - the reveal

I have just realised that today is the anniversary of my blog. Tomorrow will begin my 3rd year. Where does the time go?

Welcome to my new follower - Frugal in Derbyshire and goodbye to some-one who has left!

The painting and waxing of our gifted welsh dresser are now complete. Everywhere (except the inside cupboard and drawers) have been painted and clear waxed. I'm still not sure if the wax was working properly as it was a bit of a nightmare to put on.

Anyway, two layers have now been applied leaving the surfaces suitable for dry dusting down the line. It has slightly changed the colour but luckily, made it more duck egg blue which was the colour I was after.

Cardboard templates were made for the drawers and inner cupboard, and covered in the rest of the tablecloth left over from making the cushion for the conservatory unit. We have re-used the handles but think maybe something different needs to replace them but will live with them for now and see how we feel. Our motto for most things is "if in doubt, don't!"

Anyway, here she is in place but still empty.
And filled up with things that have spent many a year in the attic waiting for the right place to display them:

She (definitely a she) is now in use.

The cutlery items have been transferred from the kitchen into the right drawer. We are still getting used to that. The left one for now, is being used for our walking maps but they may go back into the bookcase. We have quite a lot of face pots (when DB can find them in the attic), so could rotate them every now and then. Top left (just off the picture) is a very old camera and top right a microscope.

Thursday 17 October 2013


First of all, welcome to Lisa via Bloglovin.

We have been lucky to ask for and receive a nice gift from the house of my friend B. It is something I have always liked and provided no-one else in the family wanted it, was willing to offer to buy it.

In the end, no-one did want it and we were given it despite offering to give them something, so that was a nice gesture. It is nothing spectacular but B. knew I always liked it and was looking for a replacement for the one we had given away years ago.

She had painted it herself and the colour she had chosen, champagne, went in her new kitchen very well. It doesn't sit so well in our dining room in that colour, so we are in the process of re-painting it.

This is what it looked like when it arrived:
The cup hooks were removed as they had split the wood when inserted. The front of the two shelves had new moulded edges put on. It was taken apart into its component bits and everything removed off each of those that could be. Handles, hinges, magnet clips, dowel caps etc.

After a good sanding to remove any loose paint, big areas of raw wood had their first coat of primer. Once that was dry, the previously painted areas (excluding the inside which had never been painted) had primer painted onto them. Although we had some paint left over from doing the dining room, we didn't want it in exactly the same colour. We felt it needed to stand out slightly without shouting that it was there.

In the end we chose a crown paint matt emulsion dapple blue:
Ours walls are painted in this colour:
As you can imagine, neither colour is represented very well here and the dapple blue is neither that dark nor that grey. The wall colour is also slightly more blue than the above! Anyway, herewith units after one coat of the dapple blue:

As mentioned previously, the inside of the drawers and cupboards were not originally painted so we are leaving them. The colour looks rather pale here as it is being painted in one of the south facing bedrooms. The dining room faces east so its colour changes throughout the day.

We will transfer the cutlery tray from a kitchen drawer into one of these drawers. This will help to alleviate the lack of space in our three rather shallow kitchen drawers. We may (or may not) also line the base and shelves in the leftover tablecloth from when we made our unit cushion cover for the conservatory.

Tuesday 15 October 2013

Hospital visit

Just a quick update on my results after seeing the cardiologist. He is not unduly concerned although it is clear some sort of short circuitry is happening.

Anyway, I have to have another 24 hour Electrocardiogram and an Echo-cardiogram to check the physical look of the heart to make sure nothing untoward is present. Wonder how long that will take to be booked in and completed.

Watch this space!

Monday 14 October 2013

High Street eating!

Welcome to my new follower, A Suffolk Girl!

We received a telephone call early afternoon to let us know that a cheque we had paid for a subscription had been filled in incorrectly. That was when we remembered we should have been attending an arts opening.

As I was just finishing adding some wax to furniture, we downed tools, got changed and attended said do. Not over impressed but there you go. Anyway, by this time it was getting rather late and I hadn't prepared anything for tea. We popped into a well known high street store to peruse their food hall and decided on one of their nice pies as advertised on television, plus a pudding. We managed to get both for £5.50 so not too bad a price despite the fact I could have made it cheaper, we needed something quick.

What a waste of money and so disappointing!

Our chicken and leek pie had not a single piece of leek resembling anything like their pictures. We both found a sliver. We estimate our large pie had maybe 8 - 10 pieces of not so succulent chicken in it.

It was essentially a very poorly flavoured sauce with a few bits of hard chicken and no chunks or slices of leek. The flaky top pie crust was nice but the bottom was soggy. I reckon it had no more than 1 1/2 ladles of filling, if that.

For pudding we chose two pots of clotted cream rice pudding. They were better tasting but not necessarily better value for money and again, we could have made 1 - 2 pints for the price.

What never ceases to amaze us on the odd times we visit this store is how many elderly people are in the food hall pushing around trollies with hardly anything in them. Are they wealthy, how can they afford to shop in there?

To say we were disappointed is an understatement and shall not both again with their food as a 'treat'.

Saturday 12 October 2013

New Page added and look!

A few questions have been asked about some of the meals/baking we ate during our 'war years' and many of which we still eat today. Some I can't remember, other than the ones mentioned in the diary, as most were from my head. I have decided to show some of those we still eat (plus new ones we are trying) from my myriad of war time cook books and let you see what they look like.

With that intention, I have created a new page entitled Wartime Cooking. I hope you enjoy reading it. Printing recipes is a little dicey because of copyright (and I have asked but not yet received permission). With that in mind, if I can find them elsewhere on the internet, where they may have permission (such as cooking sites or newspaper articles) I have linked to them.

Otherwise, I shall print the recipes until told otherwise or you can buy the books - usually for 1p plus postage off a well known book internet site!

Also, some people have been asking where you can buy dried egg powder from. Tesco used to sell Supercook 140g tub Whole Dried Egg but they were bought out by Dr. Oetker, who still sell dried egg white but no longer sell dried whole egg.

However, I have at last found a few companies supplying them in bulk on-line. Just type in dried whole egg powder and see what comes up for your particular area of the world.

Yes, at first glance, this large bag might not appear to be cheap, but once divided by the required amount (see below) it works out about the same as the original Supercook tubs.

This is the 1kg bag I bought this time.
It was decanted into 7 x 1 person's monthly ration sized bags weighing 140g
These were put into a zip lock bag and placed in the freezer - it is freeze dried to begin with by the producer.  The one in use is stored in the fridge. You of course, should you decide to buy and use it, can do as you wish.

All the time we were on rations, we never used it for cooking instead of an egg for things such as scrambled egg, quiches, puddings etc, but it does apparently work well once you get used to the taste. Might have to give some of those recipes a go now we have it back in stock!

We mainly use it for baking whereby 1 absolutely level tablespoon of powder is mixed with 2 tablespoons water to make up 1 egg. Never add more powder than this or it tastes foul - excuse the pun.

However in baking, I would normally sieve the dried egg into the flour and add the water at the end.

Thursday 10 October 2013

Giving... and a link to Elaine at Mortgage Free in Three

First of all, welcome to my new follower via Bloglovin - Linda Wilson.

Elaine has been writing recently about something here appealing to knitters, sewers and those with a little spare cash to buy underwear (intrigued then go read). If you can help, please read and start!

Yet again, another two months have past without giving so I am playing catch up! Both these charities are international and larger than those I normally give to. However, they are both a little more unusual and both animal based.

The first was a new one to me that I became interested in after watching a programme about them on the BBC. I try very hard (and it is sometimes difficult) to not buy any products that have palm oil or palm sugar in them. Rain forests are being decimated in order to grow this produce. Just how many animals and plants are we killing let alone destroying future cures through this destruction?

The first charity is here The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation.

The second charity is this one The World Society for the Protection of Animals. I won't post any pictures from here as some are too gruesome and there are many animals in need of rescue and from exploitation.

Wednesday 9 October 2013

Me and my baby!

Welcome to my new follower Gail Wilkinson.

Can you remember a few months ago I mentioned having an emergency appointment with the doctor as I was having a prolonged episode of tachycardia?

Well, quite a bit has happened since then. I have noticed recently, that I can't walk quickly, continue to talk and breathe at the same time, without stopping to catch my breath and my sighing appeared to be coming more frequently. Back I went.

He ran some simple visual tests in the surgery for LVF (left ventricular heart failure), took bloods, had another quick ECG and blood pressure done. All were fine. He then asked (not sure if this is a new 'collaboration' policy or just our relationship) what I would like to do next as he was suggesting beta-blockers and I wasn't too sure. In the end, I requested and he arranged for a 24 hour ECG to be done.

Three weeks later it was fitted. Not at all uncomfortable but a little inconvenient to carry around. It was okay when I was dressed as I could attach it to my trousers. Night time attire was a different matter!

Eventually, it was time to go to bed and I managed to not get too tangled up in the leads as I got into my nightie (I had to bend forward all the time so the monitor didn't fall on the floor - not easy!). We quickly realised that with the amount of tossing and turning I do in bed, there was no way the leads were going to stay attached, let alone the recording device!

We tried bit of sheeting, bandages, all manner of things but nothing would keep it in place. By now, being tired and irritated, wondering if I was ever going to get to bed, the whole thing was losing its appeal.

Eventually, I remembered I had some fleece and we cut a large swathe of it and formed it into a papoose. Two safety pins later and all was done. It stayed in place, was comfortable, didn't jiggle when I turned over but I was a little hot as it was a warm night.

This is me with my baby!
Now, three weeks later, the results are in and I have been referred to the cardiology department as it showed quite a few episodes of tachycardia with arrhythmia and a high resting pulse. Well I could have told the machine that, so onward and upwards - watch this space!

Monday 7 October 2013

Nice while they lasted!

It was probably just under a year ago that I found the pattern to knit myself some slippers. I had thought they would last just through the winter time but no, they have finally worn out a couple of weeks ago, after several small patches of darning to keep the heels going.
As they are 100% pure wool, they are getting cut up into pieces and put onto the compost heap. First though, I have cut off the ankle bit which is still quite thick and obviously not trodden on. I shall save them both in case I need to patch the ones I am currently knitting.

Mind you, if I have enough spare wool, I might knit a large oblong, felt it, cut out two soles and attach them to the bottom of my new slippers using felting needles. Now there's an idea:)

Saturday 5 October 2013

It's that time again...

Yes, time to make mincemeat.

I use my old faithful recipe by Delia Smith. I have tried others but for us, this hits the correct amount of sugar and flavour. I got some windfalls from my friend R. the other day and other than changing the mixed peel, for mixed dried fruit such as apricots, figs, pears, the recipe stays the same.

Here it is freshly made:
And here, hiding under a shower cap - this is a new tip to me regarding proving of bread to save wasting cling film week in week out! Thought I'd try it out here and it fits well.
I shall leave it now until tomorrow morning, then warm it through slowly to melt the suet. After that it is stirred every now and then to ensure all the fruit is coated before being packed into sterilized jars.

It is quite hard waiting for it to be ready but we bide our time!

Friday 4 October 2013

War Diary III updated ...

October has now been added to the above page. It is rather a long post this time but will make up for the shorter November - December one.  Hope you enjoy it!

Thursday 3 October 2013

Another bit of garden changed...

I showed some pictures last year of the alpine bed that sits outside our kitchen windows. Many of the plants are a little more robust than I wanted so we took the decision to lift, divide and replant.

Previously it looked like this


Here it is newly re-planted
On the patio we had previously potted up a herb garden

It didn't do too well in the heat of the summer so the few herbs still alive have been put into the garden. After dividing the alpine bed we had a few plants left over, so along with some new ones and others dug up from down the drive, it too has a new look

Tuesday 1 October 2013

Tidying up

My new garden down by the garage has proved quite fruitful this year. We have had about 14 lbs of Bambino cherry sized tomatoes, 4lbs of tomatillo's and 3 lbs of French and runner beans. The beans did the least well, partly because the first batch germinated then died, so this harvest was from those sown late May.

Everything has now been dug up and some flowers planted in for winter. I hate planting things in a straight line, but after doing 4 tubs for the front door area

there were only a few plants left so I stretched them to fit the area
Both these areas have been planted with dwarf wallflowers, viola's and winter pansies so should fill out quite nicely.

In the front garden, the pink Hibiscus has flowered the best it has for years.
Every morning, oodles of buds open and by the end of the day, they have all closed and finished.

Now all I have to do, is fathom out what to do with my third sowing of lettuces which have gone mad. There is only so much salad we can eat so some may well go into soups with other things or into dishes where they could replace spinach.