Thursday, 16 October 2008

Amateaur Dramatics

Goodness me what a week. Longshort manor has been a hive of activity, vans, lorries and cars turning in through the Griffin topped gates from the main road. Morris-from-the-bottom-of-the-lane tells me that the decorators are in, some posh company from London so Mrs Eastern said at church on Sunday. Builders have been erecting scaffolding around the house and men in hard helmets have been crawling all over the place like blue beetles. Apparently, so Morris-from-the-bottom-of-the-lane says, inside everything is either being ripped out or restored. I seem to remember that there was lots of ribbon paneling in the Great Hall and the most marvelous oak staircase with twisted newel post and carvings of fierce, toothy animals staring down at you. Morris, who had been invited inside the other evening brought me back a rather nice silver creamer. He is such a nice boy, despite his facial piercings and tattoos.

Sunday's church service saw the church almost full, something not of the usual. The reason this time was the Village Players, a group of old dears, myself included, who enjoy a good sing along. This season we are doing songs from the musicals. We have been rehearsing for about 8 weeks now, and over the winter take our little show out onto the road to old folks homes around the county. My little performance is from Annie Get Your Gun, l do so enjoy twirling my gun and slapping my thighs. I hasten to add that Mrs De La Poule is doing a fan dance, the last time she exhibited herself in this manner an old gentleman died of heart failure, at the mere sight of her fleshy body. The hussy showed no remorse only adding, ' well he died with a smile on his face'.......... Shameless woman!

This evening l am going out to the monthly Towdry Herbalist Society, we all normally take a selection of nibbles so l had better get my skates on and get baking my apple cake, a nice seasonal delicacy.

Grandma Wilson's Apple Cake

4 apples
3oz butter
1/4 pint fresh milk

2 free range eggs
2ozplain flour
3 tablespoons sugar

Peel the apples, [saving the peel for the compost
bucket], and fry them in hot butter. Mix the eggs, milk and flour. Stir in the apples and butter. put in a greased 7 inch sponge sandwich tine and bake at 375'C, 190'C, gas mark 5 or cake oven in the aga for 20 minutes. Turn out , spinkle with sugar, and brown in the oven or under the grill.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Apples and Gossip

My feet feel a bit sore today, l somehow managed to drop the preserving pan from the top shelf two days ago and it had the misfortune to land on my right foot which promptly swelled up to the size of a small marrow. Fortunately the swelling has reduced a bit now but l am still rubbing my foot in borage oil which seems to be doing the trick quite nicely.

The gossips in the village are having a field day at the moment, l heard, whilst collecting my Sunday newspapers from the Village Shop, that the Longshort Manor has at last been sold for some ungodly sum to an aristocrat who lives so Mrs Smart said, mostly in Monaco.

The Manor's history goes a long way back in time, there are remains of the castle in the park, whilst the modern house was built during the reign on Elizabeth 1, all timber frames with red and black brickwork. The house remained in the same family,the Wilton-Smythes for many hundreds of years, l believe the first incumbents came over with William the Conqueror. The last family members fell foul of the last war, with both sons being killed in North Africa, Incidently Daisy Brown, she of the high kicks and loose morals, ran off with the younger son, Guy, at the age of 14 to Paris in 1934. He returned just before the war to take up a commission in the Camel Corps; where Daisy went no one knew, forgotten until she returned to the village as Mrs De La Poule about 25 years ago.

The windy weather has brought down rather a lot of windfalls in the back orchard. A few years ago now, a rather nice young man from the council or was it DEFRA came and inspected my apples, apparently the trees are from very ancient stock you know! Varieties such s Persh Apple, rusty coat and little Herbert. This afternoon then, well in fact after l have finished my drinkings, l am off out, armed with my wicker baskets to gather the crop before the birds and animals eat them!

Apple Ginger:
4lb apples
4lb sugar
3 pints water
2oz ground ginger

Peel and core the apples and cut them into thin slices. Dissolve the sugar in the water and boil syrup until thick. Add the apple slices and boil until transparent. Stir int he ginger, boil for 5 minutes, pour into jars and cover.

this is good for filling tarts.
makes about 6lbs.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Jams and chutneys

Oh it is nice to take the weight of my feet, even if it just for a short while. The Mushroom expedition was not too successful yesterday finding only a few truffles and some wood blewit, a rather pretty coloured dainty which l found growing in several places on its own or in clusters amongst the decaying leaf litter. A lovely mushroom to add to last night's liver and onions.

Today, looking outside through the small, diamond shaped window panes, would appear to be a kitchen day. Over the past week l have been collecting whilst on my perambulations,the brilliant red fruits of the haws and rosehips, the sweet, succulent blackberries and the tart, elderberries. They sit there, in slightly chipped, wicker baskets on my pine scrubbed table, waiting to be transformed into something that little bit special for the monthly village produce sale.

This village feature is held at the market cross in front of the Golden Pheasant Public House on the second Saturday of each month. Over the summer months l must confess to having completely run out of jams and chutneys so to keep my London customers happy, l was forced to buy supplies in from my local Aldi, soaking off the labels and replacing them with my own. The jams received an excellent revue in a monthly food magazine, after a well known celebrity chef bought my entire stock!

Elderberry Chutney: [Grandmother's recipe]
1 1/2lbs elderberries
1 onion
2oz Demerara sugar
1/2 pint vinegar
1/2oz ground ginger
a few cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon mace
2oz stoned raisins

pass the berries through a sieve, chop the onions finely and boil with the other ingredients for fifteen minutes then pot as usual.

My grandmother always had the most wonderful head of black hair right up until she died at the age of 98. She swore that washing her hair in a mixture of boiled vinegar and elderberry enhanced her natural colour.

Friday, 3 October 2008

High kicks and ripped skirts

A strange thing happened yesterday in the Village Stores and Post Office when l went in to get my weekly issue of the Anglefield Post. Usually l see very few souls about as most only sleep in the village; there are not many young ones at all, anyway, Mrs De La Poule was in picking up a large paper bag containing her prescriptions, she is a strange one. Rumour has it that she danced at the Moulin Rouge and in Berlin before the war. Certainly she was in a very strange mood, laughing and joking away she was, l did wonder if she had been at the cooking brandy again, when she announced to all and sundry that she had a new man in her life. Poof, she's had more men than l have had cooked breakfasts that one and she's an old woman to boot, does she have no shame? Apparently not,it would seem. When Mrs Blacker, the postmistress, asked wouldn't she rather watch telly with a good cup of tea, she proceeded to throw her right leg way up into the air in a most immodest kick, utter an ungodly shriek, then leapt high into the air landing in full splits. It brought tears to my eyes it did. She refused all help to raise her from the floor, and shuffled out of the shop, tweed skirt ripped from waist band to hem muttering about the English having no sense of amour. Daft bat is English, she used to be plain Daisy Brown once.

I suffered quite a turn l might say, and it was all l could do to drag my wicker shopping trolley home along Blackmoor Lane. The lane is a mess especially after Farmer Dexter and his lads have been muckspreading! Fortunately a nice glass of cowslip wine helped to calm my nerves somewhat and enabled me to focus my energies elsewhere.

As the weather is not to bad today, Boy, Cat and myself are heading over to Longbrow Wood to forage for mushrooms, young Morris-from-the-bottom-of-the-lane often comes with me looking for something he terms magic mushrooms.

Hmm, l think l might be starting to get the hang of this logging now.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Introducing myself

Well, yesterday's first attempt at typing seemed to go alright, though my fingers after all that cracking were a little stiff this morning, so l have rubbed a generous amount of bone radial horse embrocation into my joints and knuckles which, l am pleased to say, has alleviated much of the pain and swelling although l now smell of old Cesaer my late father's large chestnut plough horse.

It was lovely to meet up with Mrs Snow yesterday afternoon, and certainly her wines and syrups are already showing signs of an excellent vintage, the raspberry vinegar is already secure in my medicine cabinet ready to use at the first signs of a sore throat.

The weather is so much better today so l am planning to walk along the parish boundary hedge at Cross field to inspect the abundance and quality of sloes for harvesting after the first frost. On my perambulations my companions are usually Boy, my elderly and probably the last l shall own, labrador, who although nearly as old as me can still find the enthusiasm to snuffle out the odd hedgepig or two. Boy you see, is the direct descendant of the labrador owned by my late husband, Boy would travel everywhere with him, sitting before him resting his paws on the handlebars of his velocette motor bike or waiting for him to return from a sortie. He was a spitfire pilot. One of the few. He left one bright and sunny morning, one of those with high wispy clouds, in September. He never returned. I have kept the Boy name and line going in his memory.

This raspberry tea is making me all maudlin, on with the wellington boots, coat and headscarf, collect my stick and basket, off we go Boy and Cat. Did l mention Cat or the kites?

Sloe Gin: [ my grandmother's recipe]

Pick your sloes from blackthorn hedges in October or November when they are most ripe
Take a good sized bottle of gin and drink about half
Prick or cut the sloes and drop into the bottle until full
add l wine goblet of sugar and shake well
turn the bottle every week for 12 months