Fuggan and apple dickie

I was wandering through my recipe books as I often do, and came across something called fuggan… I’d never heard of it before, but it’s Cornish, and is a simple but no doubt delicious  pastry with currants or other dried fruit. When I looked it up to find out more about it I came across an Arthur Fuggan, living in Oldham which I know well as I lived there for many years.

Arthur was born in 1864, and in the 1891 census he was living with his sister Matilda, her husband, his mother, and a niece. Oldham was one of the most famous and important cotton-spinning towns in the nineteenth century and so it was so surprise to see that Matilda was a cotton speed tenter.  Her husband was a pianist and when I saw that Arthur was a self actor minder I thought that he must be something to do with being on the stage… However, the word ‘minder’ made me wonder as I know that was a job in the cotton industry. I was right; a self actor minder is someone who ‘minded’ a ‘self actor’, or “operates a self-acting spinning mule, patented by Richard Roberts, which could be operated by semi-skilled personnel.” A tenter is merely someone who tents or tends a spinning machine in a factory. Arthur doesn’t appear again in the census, not by that name anyway, but there seem to be families of Fuggans living in other countries, particularly the USA

Back to the fuggan…  when I looked further into the edible fuggans, it seems there is also a meat fuggan, which is just meat and pastry; as far as I can gather the pastry is made into a longish fat lump, split down the middle, the seasoned, finely chopped meat is put in and the pastry moulded round it . Somewhere else I found that it was usually pork and sometimes had potatoes as well. It is baked in the oven and I guess might taste quite nice and  a way I  would think of making a small amount of meat go between a family. Apparently, the top of it was patterned with cross-hatched marks, representing the fishing nets of the men who were out at sea, no doubt looking forward to their tasty fuggan when they got home!

And so apple dickie… Similar, it seems to a fuggan, a Cornish pastry with chopped apple mixed into it and baked!

Blurb

I’m getting ready to publish my next e-book, Earthquake; I’ve got another couple of re-reads, plus some last-minute spell-checking… then maybe within a couple of weeks it will be out there! in the world!

one important thing which has to happen is to write a blurb, so when people see it on Amazon they get an idea of what might be in store. It’s difficult to make it intriguing enough without giving too much away.

This is my first draft blurb:

Thomas Radwinter’s life seems settled and content as he juggles working as a free-lance solicitor, genealogist and house husband. However a new arrival in the family puts extra pressure on him as he has to balance looking after them and earning some money. A commission from an elderly gentleman to investigate a mysterious death at a little boarding school in 1931 seems intriguing and harmless; a haunted hotel he’s asked to visit seems just to be over-imaginative guests and maybe a less than honest manager. However, during his investigations he has to confront a violent verger, an unbalanced conchologist and a very strange friend from the past…

Thomas takes on his commissions, little  realising when he begins his investigation that he will be putting his life and that of a friend in serious danger… “I tried to work out what was going on, and what to do, and what might happen to us – trying my hardest to keep my thoughts well away from a terminal conclusion to events… “

Exciting news! Nearly there!

It’s getting to those last few days, weeks of editing, sorting, checking, working on Earthquake, my next Thomas Radwinter story. I’m not completely sure the ending is quite right, those last few paragraphs and sentences are crucial, and it seems a bit flabby somehow… so I’m getting the feeling  I’ll need to think a bit more on how to actually write those last few words.

I’ve come across silly little errors, ‘gate’ instead of ‘gait’, those sort of things as well as words missed out or repeated… just typos really. There are other things I have had to change too. Because this is the fifth novel about Thomas Radwinter, there is a balance between making sure new readers understand the history to the family situation, and why Thomas is as he is, but not boring people who have followed his story from the beginning.  I also have to make sure I don’t give too much away to new readers about previous novels so it won’t spoil the excitement for them when they go back and read them – which I hope they do!

Right from the first book, the plots have been a mixture of Thomas’s personal life, genealogical mysteries, and other story-lines – and that too is a balance. Because I’m writing in the first person as Thomas, in the first drafts there is a lot of detail about his personal and family life, which actually is quite tedious. I need to write it so I have it clear in my head what is going on – but then it needs to be excised and the waffle slashed out, and just the outline of it. Having said that, there is a personal crisis in this story, so there needs to be a proper context for it – a tricky balance!

This may be the last Thomas book, but if it isn’t, I really think his home and family life needs to recede into the background a little – otherwise it will be more of a family saga than a mystery!

If you haven’t yet read any of my Radwinter books, or my other books, here is a link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden

 

Another Green Olive triumph

Where would I like to go on Mothering Sunday? I would like to go to my favourite restaurant, the Green Olive in Bridgwater, and that is where my family took me.

We were shown to our seats and there followed a splendid feast with a couple of bottle of Yakut wine; we had mixed starters of all sorts of nice Turkish things, as well as patlican soslu – aubergines with tomatoes and peppers, borek – cheese wrapped in pastry, fried liver, and spicy prawns. Although we each ordered something different, we tried and shared each other’s meals, various kebabs and grilled meats, salad and rice. Then just for once, I had dessert – a selection of delicious sweets, including baclava, revani and sekerpare which I had never had before.

Revani is a soft, moist, semolina sponge, soaked in a light syrup… and here is a recipe from Ozlem Warren:

http://ozlemsturkishtable.com/2013/10/revani-a-deliciously-moist-and-a-little-lighter-semolina-cake-in-syrup-turkish-chefs-of-the-world/

Sekerpare are delightful little almondy semolina cakes – if I had made them at home I don’t think I would have been able to stop eating them! In fact, I might try making some at home, and then give them to my friends to save me from myself. Here is Ozlem’s recipe:

http://ozlemsturkishtable.com/2015/07/sekerpare-tender-and-moist-turkish-semolina-cookies-in-syrup/

We finished our meal with coffee and complimentary Turkish Delight. If by some chance you should visit Bridgwater, and it’s an interesting town, then go to the Green Olive for lunch or for dinner:

http://www.greenolivebridgwater.co.uk/

Conserves, preserves and jam

As my we were tootling along somewhere, for no remembered reason, we began to talk about jam… maybe we had started by talking about marmalade, the making of which we are experts, or maybe it was something else which triggered the conversation, but we began to wonder what the difference was between preserves and conserves and how they were different from jams. I knew I had looked at this before and had a guess that is was maybe the amount of fruit to sugar, or the size or sort of fruit…

here is what the Kilner (Kilner jar people) site says about it:

The main distinguishing factors between these preserves are:

  • The fruit used
  • The size of the fruit pieces
  • The addition or omission of flavourings
  • The procedure used to process the fruit and sugar mix

There is a marvellous little book, ‘Jams, Jellies and Preserves – How To make Them’ by Ethelind Fearon, first published in 1953 which has a really interesting introduction. It’s interesting for two reasons – one it has some great recipes and helpful advice, and secondly it’s an insight into how basic cooking has changed.

In talking about pectin, Ethelind reminds us that the most usual test for the amount of pectin in fruit is the methylated spirits test – I don’t suppose many of us have methylated spirits in our houses any more – maybe in the remote corner of the garage or garden shed, but in the kitchen? I don’t think so!

She also mentions that in the old days (the old days for her would have been way before the war) ‘old paper dipped in brandy was used for sealing the jars. This is now rather expensive…‘  Ethelind also reveals that many of her recipes came from a handwritten book of her grandmother’s; as Ethelind was born in 1878, her grandmother must have been born between fifty and sixty years before. here is what grandma said about sealing jam pots:

Observe to keep all wet sweetmeats in a dry cool place, for a wet damp place will make them mould and a hot dry place will dry up the virtue and make them candy. The best direction I can give is to dip writing paper in brandy, and lay it close to your sweetmeats, tie them down well with white paper and two folds of thick cap paper to keep out the air for nothing can be a greater fault than bad tying down and leaving the pots open.

In the ‘older days’ of course, people would have relied on their preserves to last them over the winter – no fridges, freezers or supermarkets!

Going back to the different types of preserves, here is a list:

  • jams – small or chopped or mashed fruit and sugar
  • jellies – fruit and sugar cooked and strained so there are no bits
  • preserves – whole fruit or large pieces and sugar
  • conserves – high fruit content, often with added dried fruit, nuts, etc, similar consistency to jam
  • marmalades – mixed citrus fruit and often with chopped or sliced peel, and sugar
  • fruit butters – puréed cooked fruit and less sugar, soft and spreadable – they don’t keep well so have to be eaten quickly – oh good!
  • curds/cheeses –  fruit, sugar, butter and eggs, and as with butters, and have to be eaten quickly

Here is a link to the Kilner jar site:

http://www.kilnerjar.co.uk/a-guide-to-jams

A tale of spring

We’ve had such a lovely day, it really seems spring is with us! here are some lines from John Clare, the Shepherds Calendar for March:

March month of ‘many weathers’ wildly comes

And where the stunt bank fronts the southern sky
By lanes or brooks where sunbeams love to lye
A cowslip peep will open faintly coy
Soon seen and gathered by a wandering boy
A tale of spring around the distant haze
Seems muttering pleasures wi the lengthening days
Morn wakens mottled oft wi may day stains
And shower drops hang the grassy sprouting plains
And on the naked thorns of brassy hue
Drip glistning like a summer dream of dew
While from the hill side freshing forest drops
As one might walk upon their thickening tops
And buds wi young hopes promise seemly swells
Where woodman that in wild seclusion dwells
Wi chopping toil the coming spring deceives
Of many dancing shadows flowers and leaves
And in his pathway down the mossy wood
Crushes wi hasty feet full many a bud

Town and Around and Zena Skinner

‘Town and Around’ was a 1960’s TV programme; it was a London and South East regional  programme, the BBC’s first regional news programme. It was replaced by  ‘Nationwide’ which started in 1969 and continued until the 1980’s, an early evening news, current affairs programme.  ‘Town and Around’ didn’t exactly die, it became another programme which was on a couple of times a week, ‘London This Week‘. ‘Town and Around’ had many different features, and one of them was a cookery feature with Zena Skinner.

Like many other of the first TV cooks, Zena was originally a cookery demonstrator for London School of Electrical Domestic Science. However, during the war she had joined up as a WRNS – The Women’s Royal Naval Service (known as the Wrens) and she became a decoder. Her first TV appearance was in 1959, and she went on to become a popular TV cook, and also published many books.

I’ve just been glancing through the little book I have ‘100 More Town & Around Recipes’ published in 1965. it’s interesting to look t the fish section, as fish was much more commonly eaten than it is now. This is a book for ordinary people who would want economical as well as tasty meals; her first recipe is for dressed crab … and then she has a variety of different fish and shellfish, some of which I’m not sure we would find today:

  • cheese and shrimp fritters – not a combination which I have ever had, but Zena makes a comment that whenever she made them, she never made enough!
  • creamed kipper fillets – a basic recipe really, white sauce with flaked kipper fillets, mustard, lemon juice, served with mashed potato piped round the edge; I love kippers but I’m not sure I want to try this either!
  • marinaded dabs – can you get dabs any more? I used to love them as a child! They are marinaded in olive oil, lemon juice, finely chopped onion and a pinch of rosemary, then grilled or bread-crumbed and fried
  • prawns with macaroni – this actually doesn’t really sound very nice; heat a tin of tomato sauce and add grated cheese, (she has a thing about shrimps/prawns and cheese) milk, butter, and prawns, and then the cooked macaroni when everything is hot – apparently it’s a tasty supper dish
  • baked stuffed herring – you need herrings with soft roes, boned and stuffed with the lightly fried roe, onion, mushrooms and mixed with breadcrumbs and lemon juice. They are cooked in greased grease-proof paper and baked… might be nice…
  • crunchy tail of haddock – well, since haddock has just gone onto the endangered list I don’t think I’ll be trying this soon! However, the fish is grilled and well basted with plenty of butter, before being spread with a thin layer of mayonnaise, coated in crushed cornflake crumbs and crisped under the grill… strange but sounds a possibility, the crushed cornflakes might be quite tasty!
  • savoury fish pancakes – cod, simmered in water and lemon juice then flaked and added to a white sauce with mushrooms, Worcester sauce, sherry, and yes, grated cheese, spread on thee pancakes which are rolled up, decorated with flaked almonds and browned under the grill – actually could be quite nice, but I’m still not sure of the cheese
  • plaice or cod in orange sauce – fry the fish then make a sauce from the butter it’s bene fried in, marmalade, and orange zest and juice – simples!
  • sprats – Zena describes them as ‘delightful little fish… and you get very good value for the money’. How charming that their Latin name is ‘sprattus’! Zena just flours and fries them, or batters and fries them, or egg and breadcrumbs and fries them – she likes Cayenne pepper with them!
  • shrimp and orange cocktail – shrimps but no cheese! Oranges cut in half and the flesh scooped out to make a cup of the shell, line the shell with shredded lettuce, shrimps mixed with mayonnaise, chopped cucumber, and the drained orange pulp (I’d take out the pips, pith, and skin!) then put the filling in the shells and chill

Zena was born in 1927 so she will be ninety this year! Well done Zena!

http://www.watfordobserver.co.uk/news/10376261.TV_chef_entertains_Garston_pensioners/