Not a Jellicle cat

We had the pleasure of the company of a charming house guest, our neighbour’s cat Smirnoff, who, after mysteriously vanishing for ten days returned; the neighbours were on holiday so he lodged with us.

He put me in mind of T.S.Eliot’s Old Possum… I wonder if Smirnoff knows any Jellicle Cats? He’s definitely not one himself, being a bit of a bruiser, and tabby and white…

The Song of the Jellicles

Jellicle Cats come out tonight,
Jellicle Cats come one come all:
The Jellicle Moon is shining bright–
Jellicles come to the Jellicle Ball.

Jellicle Cats are black and white,
Jellicle Cats are rather small;
Jellicle Cats are merry and bright,
And pleasant to hear when they caterwaul.
Jellicle Cats have cheerful faces,
Jellicle Cats have bright black eyes;
They like to practise their airs and graces
And wait for the Jellicle Moon to rise.

Jellicle Cats develop slowly,
Jellicle Cats are not too big;
Jellicle Cats are roly-poly,
They know how to dance a gavotte and a jig.
Until the Jellicle Moon appears
They make their toilette and take their repose:
Jellicles wash behind their ears,
Jellicles dry between their toes.

Jellicle Cats are white and black,
Jellicle Cats are of moderate size;
Jellicles jump like a jumping-jack,
Jellicle Cats have moonlit eyes.
They’re quiet enough in the morning hours,
They’re quiet enough in the afternoon,
Reserving their terpsichorean powers
To dance by the light of the Jellicle Moon.

Jellicle Cats are black and white,
Jellicle Cats (as I said) are small;
If it happens to be a stormy night
They will practise a caper or two in the hall.
If it happens the sun is shining bright
You would say they had nothing to do at all:
They are resting and saving themselves to be right
For the Jellicle Moon and the Jellicle Ball.

T.S.Eliot

It’s still spring

Even though it is beginning to feel like summer, the windows are open late into the evening, it is still spring. The little 1936 publication, The National mark Calendar of Cooking offers us Spring Soup. The little cookery book was issued by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and published to try and promote good produce from local and regional farmers, to improve standards and improve the nation’s health.

So here is the spring soup:

Spring Soup

  • 1 lettuce
  • 1 turnip
  • 1 carrot
  • a few spring onions
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1½ pints of stock or milk and water
  • 1 tbsp cream or evaporated milk
  • parsley
  • pepper and salt
  1. shred the vegetables as finely as possible and set aside half the lettuce for garnish
  2. bring the stock or milk and water to the boil and add all the vegetables and the parsley and seasoning
  3. blend the egg yolk with the cream or evaporated milk, bring the soup to a gentle simmer and stir in the egg and cream
  4. put the set aside lettuce in the bottom of the tureen and pour in the soup

I’m not sure about the turnip… turnip doesn’t seem very spring like to me, and it does have a very dominating flavour – maybe a potato? Or for a borscht like soup, how about a beetroot!

National Mark’s Egg Soubise

I wrote about Soubise sauce one Christmas:

We had roast lamb on Christmas Day and I made what I consider the traditional accompaniment, onion sauce. I did buy some mint to also make mint sauce, but unfortunately I forgot and so there was only onion sauce on offer… which only I ate… My version of onion sauce has the onions very gently cooked in butter to be soft but not browned, and then made into a sauce with plain flour, milk seasoning and a splash of sherry. Unfortunately I had no sherry so used port which made it pink… and not as appetising somehow. It tasted fine… but as I said, none of the family shared it so I now have quite a lot left – cream of onion soup I think! There are lots of ways to make it; my cousin who makes very fine onion sauce boils the onions in a little water then uses some or all of it to add to the sauce.

I didn’t realise that onion sauce – especially if puréed or blended (which never occurred to me) is called soubise; I wonder if my family would be more impressed if I called it soubise, and I wonder if the texture might be more pleasing if I did blend it? Maybe I should try this with the ordinary onion sauce I have left over… or maybe I should just make cream of onion soup!

And by the by… according to Wikipedia the word soubise can be associated with:

  • Soubise, a salpicon of cooked and pureed rice and onions; used primarily “au gratin”
  • Soubise sauce is based on Béchamel sauce, with the addition of a soubise of onion and rice purée.
  • Soubise, Charente-Maritime, a commune of the Charente-Maritime département, in France
  • Benjamin, Duke of Soubise (? 1580-1642), Huguenot leader
  • Charles, Prince of Soubise (1715–1787), peer and Marshal of France
  • Julius Soubise (1754–1798), freed Afro-Caribbean slave and noted British fop
  • Prince of Soubise
  • Princess of Soubise
  • Hôtel de Soubise, a Parisian mansion

By the way, in case you were wondering – a salpicon or salpicón, means a mixture, hotchpotch or medley in Spanish and refers to a mixture of different foods chopped up small and stirred into a sauce.

It’s exactly five months since Christmas, we had the traditional turkey last year, not lamb as we did when I wrote about soubise sauce… but according to the national mark Calendar for cooking, May is just the time for stuffed egg soubise – and the onion sauce it recommends is, according to them ‘very far removed from the slimy white sauce with pieces of half-cooked onion floating dismally about in it… onion sauce should never be lumpy.’

  • 2 lbs of onions, finely minced and scalded for three minutes in boiling water then dried
  • butter
  • béchamel or white sauce
  • cream
  • salt
  • pinch of sugar
  • hard-boiled eggs, cut in half, yolks removed
  • buttered toast or fried bread
  1. fry the minced, scalded, dried onions in butter with the lid on until soft
  2. add the white/béchamel sauce
  3. add salt and sugar, cook gently for half an hour
  4. rub through a sieve and stir in cream
  5. add the egg yolks and stir in well
  6. fill the half eggs with sauce, piling up as much as you can
  7. place on the toast/fried bread and brown under the grill

This may seem an awful lot of trouble, but in the days when maybe you only had a few inexpensive ingredients, then this would probably be tasty and different from the normal fare.

Who did it? Did anyone do it?

I wrote this a couple of months ago… I’m repeat it to try to tempt you to buy my book!

Maybe a crime was committed… maybe not… it all happened in 1931… Maybe one of these girls, aged between eleven and sixteen was a victim, maybe one was responsible… They were at the same school in 1931… and it all started with an earthquake:

  1. Cynthia  – Cynthia says she wastes most of her time in class trying to be funny; we think she spends all her time in class being funny! Cynthia is a very kind, helpful girl, and everyone likes her
  2. Florence Eva – little Florence is always trying to be helpful, she likes nothing better than lending a hand!
  3. Rhoda Joyce  – Rhoda’s really good at tennis, everyone wants to be her partner in doubles! Rhoda’s very clever and is always ready to help others with their work.
  4. Lilian Joyce  – Lilian is very independent, she is always ready to go of adventuring on her own
  5. Christiana Myrtle – Christiana is the most beautiful girl in the class, everyone wishes they looked like Christiana!
  6. Freida  – Freida always tries her best! Whatever she does she really tries her hardest
  7. Miriam Blanche  – Miriam is a fighter, she will always strive to do her best and achieve what she wants.
  8. Kathleen Rose – Kathleen  Rose is the strongest girl; she can run faster and farther than any of us; the teachers think she’s ‘cheeky’ we think she’s fun!
  9. Alma Mary – Alma’s motto is ‘if you can’t say something nice about someone then it is better to remain silent’!
  10. Cicely – is the most ambitious girl; the teachers say she will go far!
  11. Bertha Jean – Bertha Jean is the quietest girl; she is the best at keeping secrets!
  12. Frances May– Frances is the bravest girl; she will dive from the top diving board or walk through a field of cows when there is a bull in the field!
  13. Marjorie Violet  – Marjorie is the baby of the girls, and the newest of the girls, we wonder what the future hold for Marjorie!

This is the problem Thomas Radwinter is set in my next book, called ‘Earthquake’ which I hope will be available in May!

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

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

‘Earthquake’ is now published! Find it here, and you will find out who was murdered, how and who by!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/EARTHQUAKE-RADWINTER-Book-LOIS-ELSDEN-ebook/dp/B06Y18H8JR/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1495403715&sr=1-1&keywords=lois+elsden

Strange goings on at the Waterside

I’m a great pub person – although, to be honest we actually don’t visit the pub more than a couple of times a week! However being that pub person, it’s not surprising that pubs feature in many of my books. In my latest genealogical mystery, ‘starring’ Thomas Radwinter (another pub person) he is commissioned to investigate strange goings on at a former pub, now a hotel called the Waterside. Here is an except, where he recounts his first impressions:

The hotel had obviously been an old pub, right on the quay side I think you’d call it, of the old harbour; this isn’t the old harbour in town, this is the old, old harbour in Hamwick – which must have been a separate little place once but is now just part of the outer edges of Strand. I don’t know anything about it, or this area and have never been here before. I shouldn’t think many people have, it’s got a seedy, desolate air, most of the businesses are closed, and look as if they’ve been closed for a long time.
It was sheeting with rain, so I’d literally run from where I’d parked in a supermarket carpark, half a mile away, run between the rather tatty very old houses to the harbour where the hotel was.
I stood looking at it and yes indeed, it had definitely been a pub – I must look it up. I guessed it was maybe a couple of hundred years old, and in the olden days it would have been busy and thriving, all those thirsty, fishermen, all the people coming to buy the fish and maybe other things. I imagined horses and carts and wagons coming to collect the bales and barrels and loads and people shouting and ropes swinging and pulleys – or whatever those things are called which lift things up – not cranes, well, maybe cranes… another something to look up.
In the funny light and with the rain making it all shiny it really did look a bit creepy. I noticed there were four parking places at the front of the hotel, two on either side of the steps which led up to it. It was a double fronted place but quite narrow, the building going back. There was an alley down one side, a very narrow alley, more like a passageway and I had a peer down there and could see that the place was fairly sizable… I’d imagined Rebecca having a small almost bed and breakfast type place… this was big… hmmm… I had a moment’s puzzle about the finances of it all but that’s nothing to do with me, her economic situation is not my concern – thank goodness!
I stood looking at it again, and took a couple of pictures, despite the light not being very good and then I had a bit of a wander.
There was like a broken pier part, the stones all tumbled into the sea, all covered in seaweed and green slime, and then there were some steps leading down to the beach with a hand rail. The beach here, which I’d never been to, looked quite nice, what I could see of it with the pounding waves. There was a bit of a harbour remaining, with some boats, so obviously it was still used to some extent.
There was the usual muddle of old buildings, some which looked as if they had been sheds, maybe for the fish, some of which were small houses, then this big hotel; even though it was bigger, it didn’t look out of place. There were a few closed shops, another pub which also seemed closed… it was all pretty desperate.
I could see how someone coming to stay here might be predisposed to thinking it was creepy, and sort of setting themselves up to find spooky happenings… This all seemed a complete load of bollocks, ‘bollocks’ is one of Paul’s words.
I came back to the hotel… yes, it really didn’t look very inviting. The rain was slackening off and I could imagine maybe on a nice sunny day it would be interesting, and certainly very near the beach. I wandered back to the worn steps leading down to the sand. An image came back to me… night time, and a dead woman lying on a beach as a ferocious storm raged all around, and I was dragged away from her, forcibly dragged away…
I’d got an appointment with Mr. S, and then I had to really dash, on dad-duty again; I’d leave this rather strange place and come again.
“What you up to, mate?” I nearly jumped out of my skin.
A big burly man had materialised behind me… he actually was huge, really tall and hefty, with a big black bushy beard and big black fuzzy hair.
“What you doing here?” he asked again on the verge of being threatening. Well, it was a public place, I was merely looking at stuff, not doing any harm…
“Just looking around, I’ve not been here before, got a bit of time to kill before I see a client,” I tried to sound manly without being aggressive; I used to be such a wimp – for most of my life I grovelled and apologised with no reason to, now I tried to stand up for myself.
“Had a few break-ins… stuff going missing…” he said grudgingly and totally unconvincingly. I really did not look like the sort of person who would break in anywhere or be responsible for ‘stuff going missing’; on my way to see Mr. S. I had my suit on and a tie (I don’t always wear ties these days but most of my elderly clients like it) and a waterproof.
“Tell me about it! Same round our way! Can’t trust anyone, not like it used to be when you could leave your doors unlocked… Huh, what is the world coming to!”
I really did say that. Kylie laughed like anything when I told her later. I said cheerio to the bloke – I actually did say ‘cheerio’ and he grunted, and then, trying not to look as if I was hurrying away, I sauntered back through the neglected and run-down little streets to where I’d left my car.

If you want to find out why Thomas was at the Waterside, what happens next time he visits, and who the big bloke with the bushy beard is, then here is a link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/EARTHQUAKE-RADWINTER-Book-LOIS-ELSDEN-ebook/dp/B06Y18H8JR/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1495492050&sr=8-2&keywords=lois+elsden

My featured image is of Fowey, which isn’t the least like Hamwick!

Bloaters, Haybox Cookery and Canapes – and how to make them

I love old cookery books -particularly ones written between the 1920’s-1950’s; there was published a delightful series by Herbert Jenkins Ltd, little pocket-sized books and I have a couple of them.  I think they must be real collectors items because you don’t often see them in second hand shops – I guess i could get some of them on line, but half the fun for me of acquiring old cookery books is coming across them in unexpected places.

I’m not sure how many were published, but here is a list of those I know of – sadly i don’t have all of them!

  • Biscuits And American Cookies  – Ambrose Heath
  • Cocktail Snacks And Canapes How To Make Them – Mollie Stanley-Wrench 1959
  • Cocktails – Robert Vermeire
  • Cocktails: How To Mix Them – Robert Vermeire 1955
  • Cooking With Harben – Philip Harben
  • Dishes Without Meat – Ambrose Heath
  • Haybox Cookery – Ambrose Heath 1961.
  • Herbs, How To Grow, Treat And Use Them – Ethelind Fearon
  • Herrings, Bloaters And Kippers – Ambrose Heath 1954
  • Home Made Wines and Liqueurs – Ambrose Heath 1956
  • Hors D’ Œuvres – Mollie Stanley-Wrench
  • Ice-Cream Dishes – Gretel Beer
  • Jams, Jellies And Preserves – Ethelind Fearon
  • Little Cheese Dishes – Ambrose Heath 1955.
  • Sandwiches For Parties And Picnics – Gretel Beer
  • Sauces, Sweet And Savoury  – Lady Muriel Beckwith
  • The Home Wine Cellar – Raymond Postgate

Something’s coming…

As usual I’m working on my next project… I am writing a new novel, but that’s not next on the agenda, I have a plan for a book of short pieces for people whose first language isn’t English, but that isn’t it either… I have long-standing engagement with a piece of autobiographical writing… but once again, no that’s not it….

I will give you a clue:

Front…

… back

Does that give you a clue?

I’ll tell you more as soon as I can! In the meantime…