Favourite beans

I love broad beans; I love them when they are young and bright green, I love them when they are old and a bit leathery and chewy. I love them on their own, just boiled in a little salted water, or served with white sauce as we always had when we were children, or in mayonnaise, or plunged into cold water and mixed into a salad… Hot or cold, I love broad beans.

Strangely, I have never used them in a recipe; I guess because the season is short and I just like to eat them as they are and we never have so many that we want a change… but anyway, Riverford Organics not only delivers delicious veg but also includes recipes, an in this weeks’ box there was one for broad bean bruschetta – crushed beans served on toasted bread rubbed with garlic. It was so simple, and absolutely delicious; the genius who created this recipe was inspired to think that lemon zest would be a perfect match… and it really is! There is the juice of the lemon, but the zest is what sings out! The recipe said it might be necessary to skin the actual beans; well I like the skins so I didn’t, but I actually think it would have been better. I made the dish and we ate it straight away; I had some a little later and the resting had improved the flavour, so I think next time I will make it in advance and leave it to ‘mature’. It was a little dry so I added some mayonnaise, but that was just to my taste.

Here is a link to the recipe – and all the other delicious things Riverford suggests:

http://www.riverford.co.uk/nst/recipes/view/recipe/crushed-broad-beans

Running to or running from

In one of my novels one of the characters is asked about a disappeared loved-one whether the person was running away from the relationship, or running to someone else; in another of my novels it is a place someone is leaving, running away from, rather than the new location being an attraction.

Some time ago I was in a group thinking about the way we live our lives, and trying to learn meditation. For me I feel that my life is like a journey and sometimes I seem to be striding out with great energy, other times I feel as if I’m going round in circles, and at other times it’s as if I’m going for a bit of a wander, a bit of a deviation, maybe to look at something interesting, or maybe I’m accidentally lost but finding lots of things to see and do as I try and get back to where I want to be. Sometimes I’m not exactly sure where I want to be, but I’m just enjoying the trip. When I joined the group I felt as if I was heading towards something, and was being offered a particular route to get me there; I felt as if I was looking forward. However, many, many in the group were casting metaphorical eyes over their metaphorical shoulders; they were travelling to leave something behind them, they were escaping from something. I very much enjoyed being in the group, and I learned a lot and met some lovely, lovely people, but I came to the conclusion our purpose for our spiritual travel was different.

In my novel, Radwinter, Thomas the main character is definitely running towards his family history, and he is definitely running away from his present situation. In Magick, the sequel to Radwinter which I’m writing now, Thomas has changed, he embraces his present and looks forward to his future. Now he is trying to find a missing girl, and the same question crops up… was she running away from someone, or running to someone?

If you are interested in following Thomas’s adventures you can find him on Amazon, here is the link to my ebook:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/RADWINTER-Lois-Elsden-ebook/dp/B00IFG1SNO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1404155076&sr=8-1&keywords=lois+elsden

My cup of tea…

I picked up a store magazine today and in the back is a regular feature ‘My cup of tea’ where well-known people answer a series of questions about what they like to eat, drink and cook… and I got to thinking about what I would answer if I ever became famous enough to be asked.

  • Do you eat breakfast? Usually – and usually a fried egg on toast. I grind my spice mix over it, which includes fenugreek, coriander, pepper, dried chilli, cumin etc
  • Do you enjoy cooking? I love cooking; whatever it is, making cakes and scones, cooking meals for the family, making a salad for myself, helping friends get ready for a dinner party… I love it!
  • Whose recipes do you like most? Claudia Roden, the late Arto Der Haroutunian, Steven Wheeler and Meera Taneja
  • What’s your top tipple? Beer, whisky/whiskey, wine… Otter beer, Highland Park/Bushmills whisky, and mostly red wine but sometimes white
  • Do you enjoy fine dining? I’ve never fine-dined but I am sure I would!
  • What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever eaten? jelly-fish… I thought it was pickled cabbage
  • Starter or pudding? Definitely starter – mezze or tapas or a sharing platter of yummy things
  • What’s your favourite cuisine? Anything spicy… Kerela, Vietnamese, north Chinese, Korean… oh and Mexico…
  • What’s your guilty pleasure? Those cheap and nasty hot dogs from a street vendor… I actually very rarely have one, but it would certainly be a guilty pleasure with yellow mustard and loads of fried onions
  • What’s your perfect TV supper? I don’t really do TV suppers… mezze and tapa sagain I guess
  • How do you take your tea? Strong, dark and full of flavour – breakfast tea with plenty of Darjeeling in the mix

I’d quite like to live here…

I’m sure I could never afford it, but isn’t this such an attractive house? It is so charming and has such interesting external features, the walls set with flint in the traditional Norfolk style, The upper window projecting out on the seaward side of the house for stunning views, no doubt, and the curved bow-window at the top facing the road. There is the sea in the background, looking very blue on this bright spring day, but it is the North Sea cold and often dangerous. I can imagine living in this house, in a nice little seaside town. I could sit by the window and write, or just gaze over the sea for inspiration! I could wander into town for coffee, or to a friendly pub in the evening. My husband would love to live by the sea, and as an artist he would find it a very creative place to be!

This coast line looks across the Dogger Bank, once, many of thousands of years ago, this was a fertile vale, Doggerland, where people, lived, roamed, hunted until the sea encroached and swallowed it, cutting Britain off from Europe.

I’m fascinated by Doggerland, the lost lands which may perhaps have given rise to the Atlantis myths… maybe! If you are interested in Doggerland too, then there are plenty of places to find out more about it, but here is one link:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-27224243

Men who marched away

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Men who march away

(Song of the Soldiers)

What of the faith and fire within us
Men who march away
Ere the barn-cocks say
Night is growing gray,
To hazards whence no tears can win us;
What of the faith and fire within us
Men who march away?

Is it a purblind prank, O think you,
Friend with the musing eye
Who watch us stepping by,
With doubt and dolorous sigh?
Can much pondering so hoodwink you!
Is it a purblind prank, O think you,
Friend with the musing eye?

Nay. We see well what we are doing,
Though some may not see –
Dalliers as they be –
England’s need are we;
Her distress would leave us rueing:
Nay. We well see what we are doing,
Though some may not see!

In our heart of hearts believing
Victory crowns the just,
And that braggarts must
Surely bite the dust,
Press we to the field ungrieving,
In our heart of hearts believing
Victory crowns the just.

Hence the faith and fire within us
Men who march away
Ere the barn-cocks say
Night is growing gray,
Leaving all that here can win us;
Hence the faith and fire within us
Men who march away.

Thomas Hardy,  5 September 1914

Hardy was 74 when he wrote this poem so he has an old man’s perspective; he had no idea what horrors were to come in the next four years.

Teisin Lap

I came across a recipe for a cake called teisin lap,; it sounded Chinese to me, but in actual fact it is Welsh and means moist cake. The recipe I came across was quite simple as many good recipes are: beat 3 oz margarine with 2 oz castor sugar, add a few drops of vanilla or lemon essence, beat in 2 eggs, fold in 4 oz plain flour with 1½ teaspoons of baking powder, add 2 oz currants then turn into a 7½inch baking tin and cook for 20 mins at 425°F, 220°C, gas mark 7 for twenty minutes…

A simple recipe but I was intrigued by the name of the cake so looked it up – which is where I discovered that it was Welsh. One recipe I came across said it was a family recipe from a mother in law, and that the mix was always made quite stiff and it would be tipped out onto an enamel plate, not a cake tin, and cooked quickly in the oven to feed the farm labourers  at harvest time who would come in for their break and need to get back out to work quickly! This recipe had different ingredients and a different method:  4 oz butter, 8 oz flour and 1 tablespoon of baking powder, 4 oz sugar, 4 oz mixed dried fruit, ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg, 2 beaten eggs, ¼pint milk. The butter would be rubbed into the flour and then the other dried items would be added, then the eggs and milk would be stirred in to make a stiff mix. It would be turned onto a plate in a great big dollop, not smoothed out at all, and baked at 350°F, 180°C, gas mark 4 for 35 mins. This sounds nice – I like the idea of the nutmeg and the mixed fruit.

This last recipe sounded right until I came across another one, with totally different ingredients: 1 pint sour cream, 3 oz butter, 4 oz  sugar, 4 oz sultanas, 1 egg, 3 oz  self-raising flour. Mmmm, sour cream, and sultanas… but no spice or flavourings… it was a similar method to the one above with rubbing the butter and the flour together but the amount of liquid made the mixture into a batter. It was cooked in a Dutch oven… which I had to look up… it looks like a big metal casserole with a lid which you could put onto an open fire, but the recipe also says it could be cooked in a low oven,  250°F, 130°C, gas mark ½, or under a grill… really? That sounds strange to me but I’m prepared to give it a try… the only thing missing is how long it should be cooked for, and there is a suggestion from someone who tried it that it might take as much as 3 hours… This cake was traditionally for miners to put in their snap (lunch) tin… I’m sure they enjoyed it!

And finally… a fourth recipe with the rubbed in method has different ingredients again… 8½oz  plain flour, 1 tsp baking powder, a pinch of salt, a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg, 4¼ oz butter, 3 oz castor sugar,  3 oz currants, 2 oz sultanas,  2 eggs,  ¼ pint buttermilk…

I think each family would have had their own favourite way of doing it, and with their own preferred ingredients, margarine, butter or lard, mixed fruit, currant or sultanas, milk, sour cream or buttermilk… I think it must all be a matter of taste, and despite the suggestion of a Dutch oven, mots recipes seem to agree that a plate is the right dish to bake it on… I really think I must have a go at it!