Saturday, 28 November 2015

mmm... sugar and spice

This was the scene a few days ago; one of those bright, sunny, wintry mornings just cold enough for a light shimmer of frost on the grass.
If winter mornings were always like this, maybe we would view them more kindly!

It was enough to get me thinking that Christmas is fast approaching and I ought to be making the Christmas cake.
Christmas baking is one of those rituals that I really enjoy. A warm kitchen, cup of tea to hand and something interesting on the radio - perfect!

Plus, I love all the dried fruit, spices and nuts that are so important in festive baking. In the interests of quality control, I may have had to sample some of the items as I was mixing away.
I used this recipe again from an old BBC Good Food Magazine. It is called a simmer and stir cake and is so much easier than the traditional cake made by the creaming method.
I also find it gives a lovely moist cake.

Here is the cake in its nude state ready for a little festive decoration in a few weeks.

And since it is 1st of December in a few days, a pretty snowflake for some (early) festive cheer.

Hoping your weekend is a good one. We are off for our annual pre -Christmas family get together at a local pub tomorrow - 22 adults and 6 assorted babies/toddlers!
The youngest there will be our very own Tiny Girlie who is just one and the oldest a great grandma of 80.

Should be a lovely time.

annjenny x

Saturday, 21 November 2015

soup ... and other things

A fearsome north wind is howling across our part of the Fens this morning.
It seems that winter has arrived.
So what is needed is a rich, warm soup.
And one made with a local speciality is even better!

I've sung the praises of Fenland celery before.  It is the first English vegetable to be given PGI (protected geographical indication).
You can read all about the history and cultivation of the crop on the Fenland celery website.

The UK has relatively few products granted such status compared with some Mediterranean countries, but several of them are fairly local to this area.
Newmarket sausages and Melton Mowbray pork pies have both been awarded PGI.
Stilton cheese has been awarded PDO ( protected designation of origin).

When we were first married and before moving further east to the Fens, mr digandweed and I lived in the village of Stilton nr Peterborough.
Surprisingly, Stilton cheese is not actually produced in Stilton village but in parts of Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.
 The link with Stilton and hence the name came because in the 1730s it began to be sold by Cooper Thornhill who at that time was landlord of The Bell Inn Stilton, a large coaching inn on the Great North road.
Travellers would stop at the inn, which was a busy resting place on the road between London and Edinburgh, sample the cheese and so its fame spread.

The village of Stilton is now by-passed by the A1, but the beautiful Bell Inn can still be found in the village.
A piece of Stilton, had I had some, would have gone very well with my celery soup, but instead I had croutons and a light sprinkling of thyme.
I used this favourite recipe (without the apple).

Happy weekend everyone.

annjenny x

Saturday, 14 November 2015

the calm before the storm

The calm before the storm in more ways than one.
These photos were taken before Abigail* came sweeping across the country ....

... beautiful saffron - hued leaves still clinging to the trees

and sunshine streaming into our house*

casting patterns and shadows on the table.

A tranquil breakfast; yoghurt, blueberries and this delicious granola.

That was the other day. The storm arrived but I have to say that in this little corner of the Fens we got off lightly; just a few squally showers and blustery winds.

I always think there is a lull of a different sort in the weeks between Bonfire Night and the beginning of December. A hiatus before the onslaught of Christmas preparations.
Now, I know some people will probably have already completed their pre Christmas tasks - neat piles of presents already wrapped and labelled, but I've never been able to get enthusiastic about Christmas until December is here.

I will be writing lists again this year. Lots of lists.
Nothing beats the satisfaction of crossing things off a list!

* The first storm to be officially named by the Met office.
* A detail from a decorative glass screen made by my very talented sister and brother-in-law.

This weekend especially, may our hearts and minds be filled with love and friendship and kindness  #thinkingofparis

annjenny x

Saturday, 7 November 2015

light and dark

I have a little confession. At this time of year, if I am out and about at dusk, when people have the lights on in their homes but before they have drawn the blinds, I like to take a quick peek in as I pass!  
There's something so welcoming about a lighted window on a dark night.

This time of year is all about light and dark.
Candles, roaring fires and of course this weekend - fireworks.
I love Bonfire Night. A celebration of light in the gloom of November.
When our girls were young we often went to an organised event. This year though, with the girls grown up and tiny girlie ... well, too tiny for fireworks our celebration will be low key. That's to say almost non existent. Probably just a sparkler each for mr digandweed and me in the back garden!

No need for sympathy though.  If we peek through our curtains we are sure to see some great displays ..and from the comfort of our cosy sitting room.
And it's also a good excuse to make a cake to nibble.

I'm calling this Not really Gingerbread cake. It's just an ordinary sponge mixture with brown sugar instead of caster sugar, ground ginger and a couple of handfuls of raisins. Then finished with a drizzle of icing and some flaked almonds.

A few things to cheer us up in the gloom of November : candles, fireworks and cake with a steaming cup of tea.
I'm joining in with Silverpebble and her fab making_winter project, encouraging us all to post warm and cheery things on Instagram and our blogs to help us through the dark nights and cold days.

Do take a look at her lovely blog and Instagram feed.

Happy weekend everyone.

annjenny x