Britain · Pickles · Vegetables

Swede is not necessarily a nationality designator

We used to have chickens.  We loved our chickens.  Our new neighbor who bought a house behind us loved our chickens.  Her granddaughters would come and play with them and she thought that was marvelous.

The granddaughters moved out-of-state, and some of the charm of chickens fell away as well.

The neighbor came over one day and told us the chickens were causing flies to congregate in her breezeway and we needed to do something about it. Reluctantly we gave all our chickens to a feed store to re-sell.  We turned over the ground, gave it several good coatings of lime and declared it to be a chicken free zone.

About 3 weeks later a knock on the door and a card in the hand identified the health inspector.  The neighbor had seen no improvement, grown even more weary of the flies and had pulled in the heavy hitters.  I took the inspector to view where the chickens had been.  She observed, sniffed, made notes and said, “I don’t see what else you could have done.  It all looks good to me,” and off she trundled to report to the neighbor. A little while later she came back, knocking again on the door to follow-up.  While she was speaking with the neighbor, she did notice an inordinate amount of flies, but doing a little investigation, she pointed out if the neighbor would clean up the messes her dog left in her own backyard, the flies might not be as big a problem.  Oops, with a side of “Is my face red?” Continue reading “Swede is not necessarily a nationality designator”

Britain · Cake · Candy · Holiday

Green and boozy

Chocolate Irish Creme TrifleGeneral rule: if you’re going to make something special for your family, don’t take cheap and sleazy shortcuts. That’s my rule, and I’m going to stick by it. That doesn’t mean I never cut corners, but doggonit, if I’m going to make something which says, “I really care about you,” it won’t have non-dairy whipped topping out of a plastic tub. The exception to cutting corners is Chili Cheese dip, which is a football tradition.

So this morning, being St. Patrick’s Day, I was sent a recipe for Irish Chocolate Trifle.  My husband doesn’t like chocolate, but with enough liqueur, even he might be tempted.  I clicked through to the proffered recipe and said, “ewwwwww.”  I’m posting the link if you want the dumbed down version.  There you go.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

So let’s take a good idea and do it right, OK? Continue reading “Green and boozy”

Britain · Cake · Christmas · Desserts

The cake which takes all year, part 3

A whimsical example of how to decorateSubtitle: The devil’s in the details

Having made the mixed peel, cooked the cake, bathed the cake in alcohol weekly and now anticipating Christmas, it’s time to decorate your cake. 

I have previously made valiant attempts, but so far have failed to wow.  That’s all got to change!  Regardless of my lamentable efforts, the Christmas cake in England is not only enjoyed for its taste, but also its visual presentation.  The cakes are whimsical, elegant, simple, traditional, non-traditional, white or colored.  What matters is the ooh and ahh factor when brought to the table.  Click on the picture to link to the blog where they show how that one was made.  The recipes given to me for completing the decoration are below, but creativity is an intangible.  If you’re stymied, start with something simple and see where you go next year! Continue reading “The cake which takes all year, part 3”

Alcohol · Britain · Cake · Christmas

The cake which takes all year, part 2

You’ve made your mixed peel, you’ve used the syrup to make fizzy drink and the flesh to make citrus preserves and now it’s September.  [insert majestic music].  It is time to make the cake [dom dom dom].

This recipe is from the father of my friend Karla.  Karla, although having lived here virtually all her life, is a green card, being proud of her British birth.  Her father likewise, and with a very lovely Yorkshire accent.  Several years ago he compiled a cookbook of his region’s dishes and she let me copy this one. Continue reading “The cake which takes all year, part 2”

Britain · Cake · Christmas

The cake which takes all year, part 1

Last night we had, among other things, boxed macaroni and cheese.  Ghastly, but the kids like it.  It’s 10 minutes to the plate once the water starts to boil.  Quick and dirty.

Christmas Cake is the polar opposite of quick and dirty.  It is a laborious process, occupying many months and lots of loving care.  Why do it?  Because my sweetie is English and unlike his countryman still on the isle, cannot scamper to Tesco’s to purchase one.  To keep his holidays festive, I learned how to make a Christmas Cake and aside from the decorating (more on that later), I’ve been given high marks for my confection. Continue reading “The cake which takes all year, part 1”

Britain · New friends

Lovely Lady

A bit of Pickering in SeattleHow fortunate I am!  Recently I was privileged to lunch in the company of some very formidable foodies.  The occasion?  The arrival of Melinda Pickworth from the UK for a visit.  Melinda and I have exchanged comments and recipes, primarily over my attempts to create an authentic tasting crumpet.  She and my sister are fast friends, exchanging recipes, handmade cards and gifts.

Peabody of Culinary Concoctions by PeabodyWe lunched at the Seattle Art Museum, a beautiful place for locally sourced food and I felt very out of my league food-wise, having with us also the award winning Peabody.  Between those ladies and my niece who is a rabid healthy eating-a-holic, I ate my food and enjoyed talking with Melinda about how a nice gal from Oregon ended up living in England.

Melinda brought us gift bags, which was a delightful surprise (I can’t imagine what her luggage weighed) and among other things, Steve was the lucky recipient of a Marmite sandwich holder.  Don’t know Marmite? You are missing an experience!

End of story.  What, no recipes?  Nope, I just wanted to drop some names and count myself fortunate to know these lovely ladies.


Visualize Whirled Peas

My sister posted about the dog of our childhood, Max.  It was a great beginning to a recipe for orange chicken which, while tasting amazing, looked like dog vomit.  I recommend both the post and the recipe.

Many previous posts have attested to my collection of Nigella Lawson cookbooks.  Thanks to she-of-the-dog-vomit-story, I own Nigella Kitchen, as of this Christmas past.  Because she coincides her Food Network program with the release of her cookbooks, on Sunday mornings I am seduced by her warm, soft, sensual approach to the recipes in the tome.

Last week I watched while she performed that most British of icky dishes, Mooshy Peas, but with a twist.  She added a bit of Thai Curry paste and voila, it was transformed from a platter of green goo to a puddle of fragrant Phuket vacation in a nose hit.  Her menu included scallops, neatly browned and caramelized in a skillet with some butter.  Heaven in a puffy white pillow! Continue reading “Visualize Whirled Peas”

books · Britain


My sister, bless her heart, knows that I am lacking in British cookbooks, and with a British husband, this is a problem.  Now I know there are those of you who are “hip” to English culinary sensibility who recognize instantly that if you just add raisins to it, you could pass anything off as edible to an Englishman.  Spam with raisins — I’m sure George II had it on his dinner table frequently.  Raisins and whitefish in a port reduction; a favorite at Chatsworth.  And who could forget the quintessential British street food, Fish and Chips and Raisins?   Continue reading “Essentials”


Have a cup of tea!

Having gotten crumpets to the point I feel reasonably confident about them, they need tea to go with them.  I found this today and can’t wait to try it!

Chai Tea

We like to make chai in two stages in order to get the FULL flavor of the spices without allowing the black tea to oversteep and become bitter. For example…

Start with a 16 oz. pot and add 2 heaping teaspoons (or more!) of freshly crushed chai spice. Fill the pot half way with boiling water. Wait 3 minutes and dream of India…

Add 2 teaspoons of black tea—such as Assam, and fill the pot the rest of the way with boiling water. Wait another 3-4 minutes. Dream of railway stations and the markets of Delhi…

Strain the chai, then add warm milk and honey to taste. Sip, enjoy… Remind yourself why you’ll never go back to those nasty pre-made concentrates!

Tips: Increase or decrease the quantities of spice and/or tea to suit your taste, but don’t steep the black tea longer than 3-4 minutes.

 A French press pot works very well for making chai with this method.

Baking · Britain

The downside of being married

I know what you’re thinking — this will be another post about having to make some sort of weird aboriginal English food.  You couldn’t be more wrong.

angel-018Steve was a single man, living in a house with 3 cats.  The house was large enough for each of the cats to have their own bedroom, which they didn’t, and was filled with Steve’s stuff.  When we moved in after getting married, we moved 4 people, with their “stuff,” and left a large amount of furniture behind because there was just no room for it.

Yesterday I decided to tackle something Steve has spoken fondly of, Cornish pastys, a weird aboriginal English food.  I have to confess I always inwardly giggle when I hear that term Pasty because if you say it with a long “a,” it is the covering a showgirl would utilize to maintain a tiny bit of upper body modesty.  While chuckling to myself, I went looking for my pie plate.

A word of explanation – a Cornish pasty was designed to be lunch for miners in Cornwall.  After a hard morning of slugging it out underground, their hands would be covered with arsenic, generally not a good seasoning for any lunchtime treat.  Some brilliant wife came up with the idea of developing a main course that could be eaten with a crusty “handle” on it, to keep the poisonous dust out of their darling’s mouth.   Once they were finished, the handle was discarded and the miners lived to dig another day!

Cornish Pastie
Cornish Pasty

A pasty resembles a calzone other than the crimped edge has to be sturdy enough to hold up a hefty serving of meat and vegetables without crumbling; it needs to be solid like the British Empire!

In searching for recipes, I came across Delia’s recipe for Cornish Pasty Pie.  Delia is Britain’s Martha Stewart, without the criminal record.  The recipe appealed to me because she noted the main drawback with a pasty is a lot of crust and not much filling.  Being not a crust lover myself, I could see the sense in this and forthwith decided to deviate from the original weird aboriginal intent and just feed my darling the flavors he loved.

Back to the pie pan.  I have no idea where it is.  We moved as much into the house as we could.  The kitchen (and I’ll try to say this without sounding too whiny) is less spacious than the one I came from, and of course came complete with all of Steve’s stuff, so there was no room to put anything to begin with.  I have stoneware down the hall in a linen closet.  I have pottery on a decorative shelf in the dining room, trying to be decorative while still appearing to be sporting signs which say, “No, I am NOT just being stored here.”  I have a pantry where a flashlight and the fear of God are required to locate anything.  The garage is filled with boxes, stacked 3 high and 5 deep.  Lord help the man who wants to change the oil on his car — there is no room as it has become adjunct storage.  I failed to find my pie pan.

When I say pie pan (singular), I am referring to my Longaberger pie pan.  I have other glass products, but I am singularly fond of this particular one.  So use a glassy one?  Ha!  I used my Longaberger serving bowl and it worked quite well!

Longaberger bowl with Pastie Pie filling
Longaberger bowl with Pasty Pie filling

Weird Aboriginal Cornish Pasty Pie

Adapted from Delia Smith

For the pastry:

12 oz (350 g) plain flour
6 oz (175 g) lard (or shortening if you absolutely have to, but it won’t be as good)
beaten egg, to glaze
salt and freshly milled pepper

For the filling:

1¼ lb (575 g) chuck steak
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 level teaspoon dried mixed herbs *see below
1 medium to large potato
1 medium to large turnip
1 large carrot
salt and freshly milled pepper

To glaze:

beaten egg

Make the pastry first: sift the flour, salt and pepper into a large mixing bowl, holding the sieve up as high as possible to give the flour an airing. Then cut the lard into small cubes and add to the flour. Now, using your fingertips, lightly and gently rub the pieces of fat into the flour – lifting your hands up high as you do this (again to incorporate air) and being as quick as possible.

When the mixture looks uniformly crumbly, start to sprinkle roughly 2-3 tablespoons of cold water all over. Use a round-bladed knife to start the mixing, cutting and bringing the mixture together. Carefully add more water if needed, a little at a time, then finally bring the mixture together with your hands to form a smooth ball of dough that will leave the bowl clean (if there are any bits that won’t adhere to it, you need a spot more water). Now rest the pastry, wrapped in foil or polythene, in the refrigerator for 10-15 minutes before rolling out.

Slice the meat very thinly
Slice the meat very thinly

Meanwhile, slice the meat into very thin strips about 2 inches (5 cm) long (it’s important to keep them very thin in order that they cook in the time given). Place the meat in a mixing bowl, with the chopped onion and mixed herbs. Then peel the potato, carrot and turnip and slice these as thinly as possible too.  A mandolin, if you promise to use the hand guard or the slicing edge of a four-sided grater does this thin slicing job in moments.

Preheat the oven to 400º.  Line your pie plate with 1/2 the dough rolled out. Layer the filling ingredients in it (in any order). Season well with salt and pepper and a sprinkling of herbs as you go, and finally sprinkle in 1 tablespoon of water. Roll out the other half of the pastry, dampen the edge all round, then fit it over the top of the pie. Seal the edges, folding them inwards and pressing gently to make a rim just inside the edge of the plate. Score the top to release steam, brush the surface with beaten egg, and bake the pie on a baking sheet, on a high shelf, for 15 minutes. Then turn the heat down to gas mark 4, 350°F (180°C), and continue to cook on the center shelf for a further 1½ hours.

Serve this hot or alternatively, as it is still delicious eaten cold, take it on a picnic.

Weird Aboriginal Cornish Pastie Pie
Weird Aboriginal Cornish Pasty Pie

The English have 2 jars on their spice shelf in the supermarket which are called for frequently in cooking.  You will not find them in the US, so I will give them both to you here, in case you find yourself needing a Christmas pudding with your WACPP (Weird Aboriginal Cornish Pasty Pie)

Mixed Herbs

Combine equal parts:

  • Thyme
  • Marjoram
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Sage
  • Basil
  • Spearmint – optional

 Mixed Spice

  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon allspice
  • 2 teaspoons mace
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • Optional – coriander, ginger

After all the fuss of not having space, having part of my life in boxes and un-findable, would I trade it?  Absolutely not!  The rearranging and prioritizing of boxes is part of the adventure.

Steve said the pie was good, but he missed having more crust, so Delia, I’m sorry but the vote is not to mess with the original.