Posts Tagged ‘biscuits’

A tiny little face on a great big head

It’s Chat time, everyone! What else do I write this blog for if not for the Chat updates? We all know the standard first page nonsense by now, right? Theres always a picture of an animal, for no apparent reason. This week it’s a fox cub.
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No reason. Just a fox. Actually, one of the letters on the letters page is from a woman who says, “Thank you for the captivating photo of George the guide dog puppy, named after our new young prince.” George was another of the animal photos randomly stuck in the front page. I have looked at the photo of George the guide dog puppy and, while he is small and cute, I wouldn’t necessarily describe him as ‘captivating’. Anyway, the chat readers love the odd animal pics so who am I to poke fun?

Next, the personal-photos-that-hold-no-interest-for-anyone-else page. First up, a baby in a ball pool.
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Next, a dog in a hat.
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And finally, the photo I showed Danda because of the uncomfortable look on the woman’s face and he went, “Urgh!” I was like, “Why did you say urgh?” And he went, “Well, she’s got a little tiny face on a great big head. It’s wierd. Urgh.”
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It is a bit wierd, right?

The next brilliant thing in Chat this week is a letter on the health pages. Have a read.
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Ok, Tianna, 24, you’ve probably been getting a period for over a decade, haven’t you? And you’ve genuinely no idea how to do anything about the time it starts/stops? Do you live in a cave?

Next, a bit of nutritional advice.
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Hey, all you dieters! Struggling with your weight? Can’t work out why the pounds aren’t shifting? Well, you can stop all your worrying. The answer has arrived! Eat chocolate biscuits instead of Danish pastries! Shun those vegetables and that exercise regime you’ve been trying to stick to. Certainly don’t cut out the sweets and biscuits! O no! Keep eating fatty crap, just be selective about exactly what fatty crap you’re eating and the pounds will drop off! Thank the lord for Chat. Where would our waistlines be without it?

And now, after this onslaught of amazingness, I’m just going to quickly run through the names mentioned in Chat this week.

Brandon Kevan
Lennon and Sonny (twins)
Finley Iles
Mac
Minnie Power
Kira
Tats (yep, that’s a name, apparently)
Suli Binnion (anyone else thinking bunion?)
Majella
Brogan

Lastly, there’s the guy who got loads of tattoos and renamed himself King Body Art. I have no words. No words.

I’m going to finish with a bit of financial advice today. Chat must have an advertising thing with Quidco cause they mention it a lot. Check this out.
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Well, that sounds good, doesn’t it? £1000 in five years. Well! That’s brilliant. Cause it’s £200 every year. That’s at least £16.50 a month! Amazing! Tell me where to sign up! I can start saving for that trip back to Africa I’ve been planning. It’s a few grand so I’ll have it saved in about 15 years. I’ll be there in no time at all!

Summer in England

Ah. Summer in England. What a glorious thing to behold. It took a while getting here but now it is fabulous.

The skies are blue. The grass is green. The flowers are emerging.
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Trees are a shock of loud greens instead of the twigs they have been during the seven month winter.
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Colourful clothing is being worn again. Pale sun-starved flesh is getting an airing with mass shorts and t-shirt wearing.
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Iced coffee is fashionable. The new ice cream shop in town finally has customers!
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Groups of trendy city-workers let their hair down and drink pink champagne from plastic cups on the green.
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My neighbours are feeling happy and generous and I get home to freshly baked biscuits on the doorstep.
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We greet each other cheerily across the street, welcome each other in for cups of tea or homemade lemonade. The children who annoyed us yesterday suddenly seem sweet and funny.
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We even go so far as to say it feels ‘too hot’! Older men play golf again, younger men get out their bikes again. The outdoor pools are open again and rammed with kids splashing about on sponge floats, almost hitting everyone else.
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We drink more tea as, according the age old adage, it actually cools you down….?!
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We eat dinner in the garden. We have barbecues.
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We unearth the lawn from the general leafy debris that has gathered for months while we looked sadly out from the back window, not daring to step out. We get excited.

We love England. It’s the most wonderful place in the world. There’s nowhere else we’d rather be (except when the winter kicks in and we all run away to take holidays elsewhere).

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A day in the life of a scullery maid

I’ve been volunteering at Ham House for a few weeks now so I thought I’d give you all a little insight to a typical day in the kitchen there.

I spend an hour or so in the morning, testing the recipe I’m doing that day so I’m prepared for any potential disasters. Depending on if I have spotted any, I will pack my bag of stuff to take and include things which may prevent anything going wrong, eg, a palate knife to save me fighting with a biscuit stuck on a tray in front of the visitors.

I walk to the river and take the pleasantest half hour commute I’ve ever known, alongside the Thames.

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When I get there, I’ve already worked out what I’ll need from the cafe kitchen so I head there, pick up my eggs and butter, leave my stuff in a locker in the main house then put on my apron and get a head start on my baking before the house opens to the public.

As the kitchen is at the end of the recommended walk around the house, I have 45 minutes or so to get my first batch done.
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During this 45 minutes, the other room guides and demonstrators will have followed their noses to the kitchen to try the biscuits/cakes and have a little chitchat.

Once the first visitors come downstairs to look around, I’m in it then. The questions are constant.

“What are in these biscuits?”
“Where did you find the recipe, they’re really good.”
“When would these have been eaten?”
“What would they have been eaten with?”
“How many servants would have been working in the kitchen?”
“Would they have eaten at this table too?”

And I love it. I totally get in the zone. I tell them the answers when I do know them and speculate on the possibilities when I don’t. Long discussions arise, about how much wine they drunk, whether they had a small digestive biscuit after dinner, whether they brewed tea in the dining room or whether it was brewed in the kitchen then taken up because surely it would have been cold by then and etc, etc.

And people say fabulous things before they leave the kitchen, the best being a variation on, “This really brings the history alive.” I love that I’ve taken part in a kind of ‘living history’ thing, where people become more interested or understand better the history of where they are because of something I have done or said.

The baking and the tasting and the chatting continues on for a few hours, when it starts to die down. As the remaining visitors walk around, I start packing up my stuff. Once the house is officially closed, I take everything back to the tea room except the butter and eggs, which I take to the cafe kitchen.

When I return from the cafe kitchen, everyone else has gone. There are only a few volunteers left upstairs, tidying things up for the evening. As I walk through the downstairs section and all the lights are off, I feel like an actual scullery maid from 1650 staying awake to keep the fire stoked overnight. I imagine what my life would have been like 400 years ago and what it was really like to work in a house like this.
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Some time after this, I stop daydreaming, change my smart clothes for comfy ones and walk home along the river. It is around this point that I realise what I brilliant day I have had and need to share it so Facebook something like, “What a brilliant day.” I’m so imaginative.

And that, my friends, is my typical day as a scullery maid in the Ham House kitchen. I would’ve done fabulously in Downton Abbey times. I wouldn’t be surprised if they called and asked me to be in the next series actually.

Y is for….

YEHHHH!

(That’s me cheering because I’ve been nominated for another award.)

This time it’s the Super Sweet Blogging Award, given to me by WealthyMatters. Thank you so much!

First I have to answer the blog award questions so here goes…

Cookies or Cake?

Oo, tough. I guess biscuits, for dipping into tea.

Chocolate or Vanilla?

Vanilla

What is your favorite sweet treat?

Anything home baked. You can’t beat it. Banana bread muffins, flapjacks, gingerbread….

When do you crave sweet things the most?

About 4pm. Afternoon munchies.

If you had a sweet nickname, what would it be?

Um. I dunno. Flapjack face…?

Ok, next up is my baker’s dozen of blog nominations. These are specifically ones which I have used for their recipes or that I like to read because of the beautiful pictures of food.

1. Biancalovefoodlovefashion – O, the bagels! O, the breakfasts! The loveliness….

2. Hungryhinny – I hardly know where to look. The recent spate of chocolate posts has made me very happy, as did this apple tart, which had me dribbling on my computer screen.

3. Prettygirlscook – I first noticed this blog when Italy was mentioned and I have not looked back since. Posts from the latest trip, to New Orleans, was a feast for the eyes.

4. Copycatmom – This is not necessarily a foodie blog but the recent challenge to eradicate processed food has made for fantastic reading. I loved the post about making ketchup.

5. Eat-move-love – this is a great blog for anyone looking for advice about healthy eating and exercise.

6. Thelittleloaf – O. My. Goodness. How amazing does this salmon and avocado on rye bread look?

7. Le Zoe Musings – Again, not a food blog but the posts which do contain food are beautiful.

8. Rantings of an Amateur Chef – Lovely lovely food. I wish this man was my personal chef.

9. Yes Chef! – I love taking a peek into this kitchen. I love the pictures of the family and I love looking at the things they eat.

10. Fitness and Frozen Grapes – She runs, she bikes, she swims, she writes, she cooks, she’s health and fitness embodied! I love when she writes about food on her blog.

11. Bagni di Lucca – It’s about Italy and there are pictures of food. I’m happy!

12. Pepper Bento – Fabulous looking food in cute little boxes. Brilliant!

Life since Italy

Since being back from Italy, so not to feel sad, I’ve kept myself busy with the following activities.

1. Lunching on salad to detox from the Italian carb onslaught

2. Buying trees for the patio. I wanted an olive tree and a fig tree so I could pretend I was still in Italy but apparently neither get good fruit in England. We got a plum tree…

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…and one of our neighbours gave us something but we haven’t worked out what it is yet.

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Any ideas anyone?

3. Seeing friends for dinner and getting lovely presents.

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4. Planning to pull down the garden shed and put a vegetable patch there.

5. Feeding my worms my vegetable peelings and sprinkling cinnamon around the compost bin to stop the ants invading (it works!)

6. Volunteering at Ham House again. I was there yesterday and it was my first day by myself baking in the kitchen there and it went really well. People liked my biscuits, no-one vomited and lots of people said “Mmm.” I’m taking that as a good sign.

7. Hanging the washing out in the garden and acting all Disneyfied because it’s sunny (it later poured and the washing is still wet on the line but whatever).

P is for…

POPULAR!

Ok, anyone who loves feeding people knows that, illogically, you feel that when people praise your food they are, by default, also praising you. I think that might be why I like feeding people so much.

Last Sunday, when I had my first day at Ham House, another volunteer who’s been there for 15 years was talking about his oven being broken. He said he would normally bring a cake in every Sunday to put in the tea room for when the volunteers have their breaks.

A ha! thought I. I see an opening for a new cake-baker and, potentially, a new most-popular volunteer.

With my sights set on one day inheriting Ham House (who wouldn’t want this as their holiday home?)…

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…and becoming the 3rd Countess of Ham (I’m sure that’s a thing), I thought I’d become temporary cake-provider.

Now, the night before, having made my fabulous plan, I went to my kitchen to bake a cake…. And found I was out of sugar. What a loser. Who lets themself run out of sugar?! So I made a loaf of bread with loads of different spices and seeds and took along one of the chutneys I made at the farm.

When I got to Ham House, I dropped the goodies in the tea room with a note before going to bake for the visitors.

I headed to the kitchen with the volunteer baker for that day, who I would be shadowing. We baked two different types of biscuits, using 17th century recipes that we didn’t change at all (apart from baking them in an electric oven, of course).

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One was a carraway and coriander biscuit. And could I stop calling it carrot and coriander when speaking to visitors? No, of course not! And they’d go, “O, carrot and coriander biscuits? Interesting!” And then I’d be like, “O no, sorry. Carraway and coriander.” And feel silly.

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The other was called a knot biscuit, because of how the dough was rolled into strips and twisted or knotted together. They had carraway, ground mace and fennel seeds in them.

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Here’s a close up of my prettiest knotting attempt.

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The baking smells brought visitors and other volunteers down to the room, following their noses. Although it was a much quieter day than the previous Sunday I had worked, we still had a decent amount of people come and linger, chatting about the history of the kitchen.

Every so often, I brushed a stray bit of flour off the beautiful elm wood table which, they think, has been there since the early 1600s and I’d think of the people who had worked at this table before me and think how interesting it would be if the table could talk.

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Once we’d finished baking, we stayed to the end to talk to people about the recipes and what 17th century food was like. It was good fun because food is a thing most people can connect with because most people cook so I ended up having some quite in-depth discussions, speculating on the occasions when the biscuits might have been eaten and what with and were they dipped into a hot drink or eaten after dinner as a digestive, etc etc.

When I popped to the tea room at the end of the day to check on the bread and chutney situation, the loaf was now a few crumbs on some napkins and the chutney was half empty. One of the gardeners was in there and she asked if I was the one who baked the bread and said the gardeners had loved it! They snaffled half of it in about ten minutes and loved the chutney! Even the lady I was shadowing on the baking said she had tasted it and enjoyed it!

So I think that means they love me too, surely? Isn’t that what that means? What to bake for next time though? Suggestions please.

Signing off, Laura Maisey, (future) 3rd Countess of Ham and Lady of the Manor at Ham House.

B is for….

BAKING!

I’ve done a little adjustment on my daily instruction from Karen M. Jones in The Difference A Day Makes. She asked me to find a common cause to contribute towards. She gives examples such as cleaning up the park or repainting a wall or something as things the community can mobilise and spend a day doing.

As I’ve been meaning to join the National Trust for ages, I figured I’d scale this up a little. Stately homes and gardens are one of the many things the National Trust looks after and membership with them recognises, in a way, a dedication to a common cause to preserve history. It also gets you free entry to tons of cool places. I figured it sort of fitted in with my instruction for the day.

So I went along to Ham House yesterday to join up…
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…and while I was there, I asked about volunteering as it suddenly struck me that they have a kitchen garden and a cafe where they produce food made with the vegetables growing outside. Omygoodness, I’d be a bit like a farmer if I volunteered to work in the gardens here, I thought, while enquiring about it.

The lady who looks after the volunteers took me to the office to chat and talked about all the different things volunteers help with and in amongst it all, I heard this….

“…and we have some volunteers who work in the big old 17th century kitchen and do baking demonstrations for the visitors….”

O. To the M. To the G. This is so me! Baking! In a big beautiful old kitchen! Talking to people about baking and then feeding them!

“Oo, that one! Can I do that one?” I exclaimed. The lady seemed equally as excited for me to get involved.

“Would you be willing to be in costume as well, when we get round to doing a fitting?”

“Would I?! Of course I would!”

So the scene has been set. I am to be added to something called Google Calendar and to just add myself onto a day when I’m free. I shall wear a 17th century outfit and hang out in a kitchen all day baking cakes and biscuits and talking to people and feeding them. I don’t know how I could be more excited.

The lady who talked to me actually also lives in Ham House and I reckon, if I play my cards right, I could get in there too. It could be mine and Danda’s holiday home. Our Ham House holiday home.

If you don’t know anything about Ham House, go and watch Never Let Me Go or the new Anna Karenina – they were both filmed there. Then think of me dressed in my 17th century outfit, baking biscuits.