Nothing To Report

This morning found a frosty start here in ‘The Shires’ and the icy chill made way to a very rainy day indeed. This week has flown by. The children are all well as are Daddy and Dadda.

Just thrown another log on the fire as you can see with tonight’s picture. This is also a first of the season – a real fire.

Everyone is calm and watching the television. Though there were a few crazy moments earlier on. I really must get that white board in order to make notes on the various goings on that are reportable. Hence, nothing to report tonight. Let’s see what happens tomorrow then!

On the Jammin’ front, a new amazing combo was dreamed up earlier in the week. How does ‘Peach Amaretti’ sound? It blew my head off at any rate, the children too as a matter of fact. My piece of toast was elevated to the flavour sensation of ‘Dadda’s Baked Well Tart’ with none of the cooking. Now that can’t be s bad thing, don’t you agree? The full recipe to follow next week.

Well Into the Week and What Did We Eat?

Well into the week now, the weekend seems a while ago! The ‘foodie’ offerings over the last days consisted of salmon (with lobster bisque) on Thursday, an Italian trio on Friday (the party), lobster Thermidor on Saturday, roast lamb with torn potatoes on Sunday and chicken and chips on Monday. All very tasty and all on our usual family ‘foodie’ rotation. We had the added bonus of a pizza lunch at pizza express on Sunday as we felt the children had deserved a tryout in public to show us (and all) their very bestest table manners. How did that go you may ask yourself?

Before we entered the restaurant I asked John “are you sure you want to do this”? He confirmed he was and we entered the pizza restaurant. I was apprehensive, but followed our not so famous five in. Thor was at the front of the group. The waitress was about to show us to our table and all of a sudden, not two minutes in, Thor let out an almighty shriek, spontaneously followed by a change in pitch and a loud aaaah followed. Scowling at John, “I told you so” was my initial thought, but I bit my lip and made my way to the front and comforted Thor, rubbing his head for him as he yelped. He had bent over beneath a thin bar / shelf that was running he length of the wall to the right of the door, stood up and smack wallop. I told everyone to go to the table and Thor and I went outside, head rubbing as we did and sat on some seating. I calmed him down and soothed him. We talked a little about behaving well when we were out. Tears wiped away, we re-entered the restaurant and joined the others. That incident aside, the pizza lunch went very well, no screams, no fighting, only well behaved children. Do you know what? I was so impressed with all of the children, so a BIG well done to them all.

Yesterday saw three of our ‘seasonal’ pumpkins cut, washed and boiled, then strained, mashed, cooked and bagged. I tried to pour off any excess water that was released from the flesh as I mashed the pumpkin. They really do hold a lot of water. But remember my earlier trick to bag and freeze the pulp and the excess water will be released on thawing out before making a scrumptious Jam with it.

The plums that were left over from the party were washed, cut and boiled down to a pulp also. Sugar was added and then cooked on a rolling boil for around 20 minutes. This resulted in a most flavoursome plum jam. The addition of a good volume of calvados (pear brandy) and this humble jam was elevated to manna from heaven. The full recipe I will publish a little later, but for now, just imagine this heady marriage of flavours – a very grownup jam indeed.

Thursday nights dinner:

One of Friday nights Pasta sauces:

The king of the Foodie kings on Saturday:

Sunday’s roast lamb with Dadda’s deep fried ‘torn potatoes’.

Monday’s roast chicken thigh (better taste than breast) with Dadda’s triple fried chips.

And what’s on the menu for tonight I wonder…

The Hallow – Fawkes Party

All pumpkin’d out after these last few days! I am now listening to Bach in the kitchen! It’s Saturday morning. The earlier noise has finally subsided now that the littler three of the not so famous five have left for Charlie’s Birthday Party (a friend from school). The girls and I are going to enjoy some treats in their absence, as I always do with those not invited to any of the numerous Birthday Parties that are on the family agenda. Last nights ‘Hallow – Fawkes’ Party went down well. Things went smoothly, though I spent rather too much time in the kitchen. I believe everyone had a great time. Thank you Sindy and sister Sally who helped out – Sally’s spooky cupcakes were well received. Sleepy Hollow was a big success and the 4 litres of hot chocolate that were consumed whilst toasting marshmallows on the bonfire also went down extremely well.

It’s now 3pm and the he little ones have been maraudering around the house from their sugar highs from the earlier party. Thor has been shouting louder than usual and has just collapsed with sheer exhaustion from his ballistic behaviours!

The girls and I had chapatti and pea curry for our lunch, but not before chocolate coins were consumed and a toffee apple to boot. More sweets were had to rival the sweetie bags that returned with John and the little ones from the party.

I just snook upstairs in order to finish this. The volume is subsiding slightly downstairs. Everyone loved the dogs last night, though the rapscallion pair retired upstairs and onto Dadda and Daddy’s bed for a snooze after stealing several of the children’s hotdogs – rolls and all. The Puttanesca was enjoyed as were all of the other Italian dishes.

Did I say thank you to all that made it. Well, if not – A very big thank you…

Yesterday’s Mid Week Roundup

I thank Worldpress for the delay in today’s (yesterday’s) update. I advise you to never use bullet points on your blog if you have one – I’ve been back a thousand times to try and rectify every paragraph post bullet points…

Enough of the dwelling on yesterday. And here’s to today! It was late when I crawled into bed last night. In fact, 1pm. John and I had been to the cinema and we weren’t back until late, then some food, a glass of wine etc. Bubble and squeak, that was the the late dinner, not the movie title! We haven’t enjoyed that for some time. Home made cauliflower cheese too!

Well, so far this week I have mentioned preparation for tomorrow’s ‘Hallow – Fawkes’ party, done a little Jammin’ and compiled a video of some of our Instagram favourites.

The not so famous five are presently pacified besides the television watching ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ for the umpteenth time. I am now sat at the kitchen table finding the time to write this, in between making a potato and watercress soup (for lunch) and two lots of devilled wings for tomorrow’s party. Home made barbecue sauce of course! Chinese five spice and a garlic and chilli one. Have you ever made your own? It’s so simple. It’s basically making your own tomato ketchup! A mixture of vinegar, sugar and tomato purée will make the basic ketchup with a little seasoning. Okay at this point you could of course just use shop purchased ketchup and add soy sauce and a teaspoon of five spice mix to half the sauce and Garlic, chilli sauce and Worcestershire sauce to the other half. Just roast the wings (or drumsticks) with your sauce as you would normally.

Wow, five paragraphs in and I have barely mentioned the children. And they’ve been on half term since last Friday! And we’ve done lots! They’ve been on outings, eaten more than a battalion of troopers, I do like cooking a main meal for them again daily and we’ve had a good old sprinkling of fun too. Plus the occasional outbursts from the little ones. Damn I think I am going to get a whiteboard for the kitchen and note memorable moments. That way when I do an update after a few days – I can give it to you in a time orderly fashion.

The sound of the track ‘The Old Bamboo’ is wafting through the air. I takes me back. Lol

Did I say we’ve been preparing for a party tomorrow? I did? More on that later then…

Ginger and Pumpkin Jam

Are you a fan of ginger? I wasn’t so much a few years ago. I loved it in my marinades for curries, alongside garlic and chilli, but on its own as a flavouring? Well, I converted and I guess, I’m thinking, so could you perhaps.

At this time of the year, it’s all about pumpkins nowadays! But does this humble ‘Squash’ have much flavour? To be honest, I don’t think so! But then again, as I say to the children, always give it a go – there’s no harm in that!

Like most things, a Jam needs perfecting. Last years ‘Spiced Pumpkin’ Jam went down well. But then I got to thinking that ginger is the way forward. It’s flavour is specific – it has aromas that are both intense and at the same time delicate. There is a little flavouring to the Pumpkin, of course, but the addition of the dried ginger transcends it into an all together delight.

In the recipes that follow, I am going to use metric, but our American cousins can carry on using measurements by the cup. So there are no conflicting arguments about weight. I am now going to do a small experiment…

Okay, I just zero’d my electronic scales (cancelled out mug weight) and the average sized mug weighed, whilst filled with water (the height of a cup of tea), 250g. So that’s the agreed weight ratio for ‘a cup’. Now, you might remember that one kilogram is made up from one thousand milligrams and that one litre of fluid is made up of one thousand millilitres! I think that we can comfortably say that 250g will hence equate to 250ml of liquid.

Did you know that Josiah Wedgwood was a prolific experimenter! How else do you think he perfected his porcelain, both in composition and design! Like him, we will experiment when the need takes, or if I have a ‘Top Tip’ that I have found out due to earlier experimentation, I will gladly share.

Finally, on the topic of composition and experimenting, I need to tell you that pumpkin has far too much water in it. The question is – how do you remove some of the liquid to leave a texture that is more conducive to making a Jam? It always comes back to the ‘Kitchen Science’. You can either boil the hell out of it for a couple of hours, leaving a pulp behind that is less flavoursome than you would have liked, or you can boil, drain and mash. Then you need to cool down and freeze the pulp in a polythene sandwich or freezer bag. The night before you get Jammin’ defrost overnight. I always do this using a saucepan I use for steaming and I place the frozen pulp in the slotted steamer part, but if you don’t have a steamer, a colander sat on a broad frying an will do. The next day you will find that much of the ice has thawed from the pulp and has been released through the plastic freezer bag! It seems that polythenes aren’t watertight after freezing. Voila, you are left with pumpkin pulp that is not watery and quite pithy. Perfect for Jammin’ with.

Ingredients: For 10 x 318ml jam Jars

Tip: get your Jam jars and lids in the dishwasher at this point to sterilise them.

1.5kg Pumpkin Pulp

500g Apple Pulp

2 Lemons (or juice from a bottle)

2kg Granulated Sugar

25g dry Ginger (1 small jar)

Please note that there is always some evaporation! Four kilograms should fill 12 jars, but go for 10. Also, why am I starting this entry with 10 Jars? Of course, you can scale down, but this is Halloween, so get practicing for Christmas please – give the extra jars away. It doesn’t hurt to give without looking to receive at anytime of year…

Method:

Place your pumpkin pulp in a large pan along with the apple pulp and the lemon juice.

Bring to the boil stirring occasionally.

Add the sugar and dry ginger. Mix until the sugar has dissolved.

Slowly bring back to the boil. you will notice the mixture looking more translucent.

If the phone rings, turn off the heat! I’ll explain this shortly!

Cook on a ‘rolling boil’ for around 20 minutes, until the contents hold together well whilst dripping from a wooden spoon.

Skim your Jam at this point. You should notice the mixture looking more silky and shiny. This is because your Jam should have stared to gel.

The final sterilisation can be done in a large pan or steamer. Carefully place as many filled jars in as the pan allows. Cover with water, being sure to submerge your jars beneath at least 2cm water. Alternatively place in a steamer and cover with the pan lid. Steam or boil for a minimum of 20 minutes.

The pan will burn if the heat is too high and the pulp has sunk to the bottom of the pan. You must stir every few minutes and not overheat your Jam. A rolling boil is not a light simmer. Equally it is not an erupting fountain of heat! To leave the room at this point could completely ruin your Jam – please note! If the phone rings, turn off the heat!

I will confess, I have burnt one or two jams in the past from nor paying 100% attention. You must pay attention as this aspiration to make your homemade Jam for everyone to enjoy, is a welcome aspiration, time well spent, to make the divine! Your friends and family will love you all the more for the gift of a homemade Jam…

if you are actually going to try this – go on! You might just consider buying a metal jam funnel and a ladle. It makes bottling your Jam so much easier.

…more on family life here in ‘The Shires’ later – thank you for reading.