Potato peelers

There seems to be a tool for every conceivable kitchen task these days; I have to be very strict with myself when I am anywhere near the household department of a big shop, or a cookery shop, or a hardware shop which has a few racks of interesting things… Last year when I was trying to get rid of one item a day – given away, recycled to a charity shop, or even thrown in the bin, I had a great clear out of my kitchen drawers and cupboards. When would I need a melon baller? Why had I even bought a cherry-stoner? I bought egg poaching pods and never once used them, we have a poaching pan, why do we need  pods? There were many more items which I don’t even remember… I confess I did keep a few, for example a little press for making pirozhki (I’ve never used it, am I ever going to make pirozhki? Maybe I should today)

When I first started peeling potatoes, and other vegetables, I used a small sharp knife, and for preference I still would today. However when I visit friends and help by peeling the spuds, I’m given a whole variety of different peelers… some have a short concave blunt blade with a slot in it, some are a variation on that but with a wobbly, hinged blade suspended like a slack bowstring, some  are catapult shaped but with a blade instead of elastic… and I usually revert to a small knife having lost the battle with the friend’s favourite implement.

I looked on the Lakeland website, twenty-three peelers, including:

  • potato peeler
  • potato straight peeler
  • swivel vegetable & potato peeler
  • fruit & vegetable potato peeler
  • palm peeler (to hold in your palm, nothing to do with palm fruits!)
  • vegetable peeler
  • julienne vegetable peeler
  • corn stripper
  • garlic peeler
  • fruit peeler
  • orange peelers
  • multi peel julienne
  • 4-in-1 y-shaped peeler
  • ceramic peeler
  • sharpener and peeler
  • straight peeler

I love Joseph Joseph kitchen ware, and ‘in the interests of research’ just had a little peep,

  • Rotary Peeler – 3-in-1 vegetable peeler, green/pink
  • Multi-peel – Multi-function peelers, green/yellow/orange
  • The Peeling Perfectionist – 3-piece peeling gift set, multicolour
  • Scroll – Silicone garlic peeler, green/ grey/ red
  • The Foodie – 4-piece gadget and utensil gift set, multicolour

I know we’re trying to downsize, I know we are trying to get rid of unwanted unused items, and I know a small sharp knife is my preferred utensil, but…



Delicious pirozhki!

Perverse and foolish

I was a voracious reader as a child; I read all the book sin our house, and all the books in the children’s library, before borrowing my mum’s library tickets and having a go at the adult section. However, I would go back to the children’s books for my favourites, and ones I read and reread many times were the Green Knowe series by Lucy M. Boston.

There were six novels,

  1. The Children of Green Knowe
  2. The Chimneys of Green Knowe
  3. The River at Green Knowe
  4. A Stranger at Green Knowe
  5. An Enemy at Green Knowe
  6. The Stones of Green Knowe

… but I think I only read the first three, as the latter ones were published in 1961, 1964 and 1976. Green Knowe was an old house, full of ghosts and spirits which the children in the story had adventures with… actually, I really ought to read them again as I have forgotten much of what the stories were about. Green Knowe was such a magical place, I have such a strong sense of it, and I never realised when I read the stories as a child that it was based on a real house.

Lucy M. Boston is a fascinating person, and I’m reading her biography at the moment, ‘Perverse and Foolish’. if only I had known when I was young and reading the stories, that green Knowe was actually The Manor, a house I had passed dozens of times in Hemingford Grey where our cousins lived! I may have well passed Mrs Boston in the village street!

In another curious thing, I was talking to friends of ours who live just down the road, and it turns out that they also had relatives in Hemingford Grey, and on one occasion, they met Mrs Boston who invited them into the Manor to look round! The house, it seems is open to visitors, so next time we are in the area, I am going to ring in advance and arrange to visit… I will read the novels again before I go!


Cardamom, Cardamon, Cardamum

Cardamom is one of those what you might call Marmite flavours, love it or hate it – and like Marmite, which I love, I also love cardamom. I do agree though, that a little goes a long way, and it can overpower other flavours, but subtly used it can enhance all sorts of recipes, sweet and savoury! It’s also vital as a part of a curry or tagine  mix, when combined with other spices it can produce the most delicious and aromatic dishes.

I don’t actually know much about it except it can be black or green, and is a husky pod with small black seeds belonging to the ubiquitous ginger family. As you might imagine it has been used since the most ancient times, and its’ name derives probably from an ancient Indian word – where the plant originated. It now grows in many other areas, including South America where it was planted by German coffee growers .

It doesn’t just taste delicious, on its own or mixed with other spices and herbs, it has some healthy aspects; it contains vitamins C and B-6, and also calcium, iron and magnesium – although I guess you would have to eat rather a lot of it to benefit. Health benefits seem to be everything which might be wrong with you, including hiccups!

Here is what the plant looks like, courtesy of Wikipedia:

I’ve recently been trying to make halva – my attempts haven’t been too bad, but I have yet to make the perfect recipe… needless to say, cardamom features!

In case you’re wondering, my featured image is of a dessert I made from some offcuts of an Icelandic cake recipe… waste not want not!

Þam beancoddum – the bean pods…

I’ve mentioned before that I go to a group where we discuss Anglo-Saxon… we aren’t trying to learn it, we don’t have a teacher, and to be honest, I think it’s a bit beyond us! We do have most interesting meetings, though, and we always overrun our time together!

We met yesterday and talked about many things, and then our leader shared this short story; here is the first part, which I’m sure you are familiar with in modern English!

He cwæð: Soðlice sum monn hæfde twegen suna.
Þa cwæð se gingra to his fæder, “Fæder, sele me mine dæl minre æhte þe me to gebyreþ.” Þa dælde he him his æhta.
Ða æfter feawum dagum eall his þing gegaderode se gingra sunu ond ferde wræclice on feorlen rice ond forspilde þær his æhta, libbende on his gælsan.
Ða he hie hæfde ealle amierrede, þa wearð micel hungor on þam rice and he wearð wædla.
Þa ferde he and folgode anum burhsittendum men þæs rices; ða sende he hine to his tune þæt he heolde his swin.
Ða gewilnode he his wambe gefyllan of þam beancoddum þe ða swin æton, and him mon ne sealde.
Þa beþohte he hine ond cwæð, “Eala, hu fela hyrlinga on mines fæder huse hlaf genohne habbað, ond ic her on hunger forweorðe!”

…and here is a version you may be familiar with:

He said, “There was a man who had two sons.
The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.
After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need.
So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs.
He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!

I can’t find a recording of this to share, but here is the Lord’s Prayer:

Not in love…

This is a song which takes me right back to a particular time… not because it meant a specific thing to me then, but it did to a friend, and I must have heard it dozens of times as he played it over and over, and thought about the girl of his dreams… I love this song because – well, it is just such a great song!

I’ve never seen 10cc live, but maybe one day… in the meantime, isn’t this a great performance from a gig in Swansea in 2011?!

Looking up the Brontës

Many of us are fascinated by genealogical research, and looking through old records and census returns… one little offshoot of this is to look up the nineteenth century records of people we know from other areas… for example the Brontë family.

In the 1841 census, in the parish of Bradford in Yorkshire (the West Riding) in the registration district  of Keighley, in the town of Haworth, you would find Patrick Bronte, born in 1781 and aged 60, his sister-in-law Elizabeth Branwell of the same age who was born in Cornwall, and  two of his daughters,  Emily Jane aged 20 and born in Yorkshire, and Ann, a year younger; also in the household was fifteen year old Martha Brown who we can guess was a servant.

Charlotte, meanwhile was a short-term position with the White family at Upperwood House in Guiseley, also in the West Riding of Yorkshire; she had three charges, Jasper, Arthur and Sarah. Ten years later, Charlotte was at home; the family had a visitor, Charlotte’s friend Ellen Nussey. Martha Brown, the servant girl, was now a young woman of twenty-five, and there was another servant, eighty-one year old Tabitha Akroyd born in Haworth. Charlotte Bronte. Somehow over the ten years between surveys, Patrick has aged an extra four years – his date of birth is now recorded as 1777, not 1781, and his place of birth Ireland, and he is described as ‘Incumbent Or Perpetual Curate Of Haworth’.

In 1861, the inhabitants of the parsonage in Haworth have changed slightly; still in residence is eighty-four year old Patrick; all his children have died, he is alone apart from his son-in-law, Charlotte’s widower, Arthur B. Nicholls, and Martha Brown, now the housekeeper. There is another servant, Eliza Brown, who I guess is probably Martha’s younger sister. If you look back at the 1851 census, you can find Arthur B. Nicholls there in haworth, listed as ‘curate’ and living in Sexton House.

It’s really interesting to undertake  little journeys into the past like this; no doubt i could have found exactly the same information on any of the many websites devoted to the Brontës – but not as much fun!

I’ve used my interest in genealogy and family history research in my Thomas Radwinter series of e-novels; her is a link:



Having a rethink

Since publishing my last e-book, Earthquake, I have been back to work – back to writing I mean because fortunately I no longer have a day job and can spend my time writing! While I was at work, I still wrote, but it had to be squeezed in among everything else, job, family, housework, stuff, but I completed several novels, and since I have been writing full-time, over the last five years, I have been editing and publishing them.

While I was editing, I found that the fact I was writing in odd bits of time really showed, and I had to really work hard at polishing them up, pruning them severely and knocking them into shape, before launching them on KDP, Kindle Direct Publishing. As well as six or so complete novels, there were a couple of unfinished stories; so, since Earthquake, I have gone back to one of these and have set to knocking what there is of it (about 70,000 words) into shape and getting to grips with completing it.

This novel, ‘The Story of Frederico Milan’ is as you might imagine about a man with that name; three years before the beginning of the novel, his wife left him and has not been seen since. Frederico assumed she had gone off with another man, her parents think Frederico has done something to her… The police have investigated and found nothing suspicious. As you might imagine from this starting point, Frederico is manipulated/blackmailed/forced by his parents-in-law into trying to find the truth about his missing wife.

I pulled the virtual manuscript off my virtual shelf and I have begun to edit it before writing the final part. I thought this would be a good way of keeping writing without all it takes to start a completely new novel (which I actually already have in my mind) However… in the eight or so years since I wrote the first part of Frederico, my writing has changed enormously; although the backbone of my style is the same, I guess (difficult to judge objectively) much else has changed – my voice, I guess you might call it.

The editing is really hard with this story, so much has to be changed, so much rewritten, so much excised… There are parts I really like, but a key factor of the plot is not just weak but unbelievable! The characters who start off being quite engaging seem to have become mere cardboard cutouts, with ludicrous too long conversations, and immature behaviour – doing things which might be believable in teenagers but don’t ring true with adults! … and yet, and yet the core is a good novel waiting to develop and emerge!

I had planned to edit the story so far, write the ending, edit it as a complete novel and then see what happens next! I had a bit of a revelation last night and I have come to a new decision:

  • continue editing (very strictly) to the end of the story as it is
  • rewrite the really poor parts (talk severely to the characters and get them to act their age)
  • describe the characters more fully and more objectively
  • excise the unbelievable and inconsistent parts
  • take a mighty scythe of ‘delete’ to much of the conversations
  • have more action and less chat
  • improve the descriptions of the settings – they are so vivid in my mind, but readers can only read words not what’s inside my head
  • put it to one side and write something else

The last point – putting it to one side, will offer the story one last chance; if when I come back to it I still feel despondent about it then maybe it is time to say farewell to Frederico, Erin, the Burnetts, Dr Goodrich and Father Apinski, and maybe leave Frederico’s wife unfound… However, I have a feeling that if I work hard at it now, with this new end in sight, then when I come back to it at the end of the year or next year, maybe I will do so with more enthusiasm!

Watch this space for news on Frederico, and also for news on my actual new novel!