Not as good as cousin Greg’s…

While we are on our family holiday we take it in turn to cook; the first day is always sausages, the last day is always left overs (although this year we also had a superb chicken curry). So, day two was pie, day three was roast, day four was Thai curry, day five lasagna and day six tagine… We don’t have deserts, we have cake! The advantage of cake is that if any of us is going out for the day and need a picnic or snack, cake is just the thing, easy to transport and no container except a plastic bag needed. We had a great and varied selection this year, Battenberg, fruit cake, brownies, ginger cake, flapjack, lemon cake.. and my favourite, halva!

Cousin Greg made the halva, and I have to confess, I think I probably ate more than my fair share! Now, there are many different sorts of halva – the word originally just meant sweet and then came to mean any sweetmeat or dessert. I associate it with Greece, Turkey and the middle east, but when I came to investigate, it’s popular much further afield! as far as Lithuania and Myanmar!

There are, it seems two types, one with a cooked flour base, and one with a nut or seed base, both mixed with something sweet – usually honey, and with flavourings and other tasty ingredients, and can also be made using pulses and vegetables such as pumpkin. it’s usually quite dry and crumbly, but with different ingredients it can be soft and almost squidgy.

Cousin Greg very kindly shared his recipe which is no-cook, tahini-based, honey-added, simple but delicious! So less than a week after we arrived home I had a go at making it…

I decorated it with almonds and pistachios

It was very easy, and it is tasty, and not bad for a first attempt… but not as good as Greg’s!


The pattern of the day

I wrote about our family holidays yesterday, an Easter tradition going back more than fifteen years for my four cousins, their families, and me and my family. Up to thirty of us get together for Easter week in a large house and enjoy all sorts of activities, delicious meals, and most of all each other’s company.

It’s very strange coming home afterwards to an empty house, with just the two of us in residence, and I notice it most of all when I get up, and go downstairs for breakfast. Easter holiday for me has a very special pattern in the mornings, and very different from my everyday getting up and breakfasting experience.

We live more than two hundred miles from the rest of the family so we don’t see them as often as we would like; so while we are away together, I always get up early to make the most of their company! Despite the often very late nights (usually sitting in the kitchen, chatting about just about everything, often till the early hours of the morning) I get up just after seven and go downstairs, fill the kettles (more than one in the large houses we stay in) empty the dishwasher if it needs doing so, make a cup of tea, and if I’m on my own, sit reading, by the window if I can! However, I’m not usually the first down; Simon either beats me to it or we arrive at the same time, so then we sit chatting, drinking tea, until he begins to cook the sausages.

Simon cooking sausages.

Sausages, a big thing in our family! We prefer Powters –  made in Newmarket but available in some other areas if you are lucky. We have chipolatas, or chips, on holiday for the first few days until they are all eaten. Gradually other members of the family drift downstairs, usually in night-clothes, and we sit around gossiping, discussing plans for the day and catching up on each others news. If someone has a special trip planned they might come down early, put together a packed lunch and set off – maybe fishing, maybe horse-riding, maybe visiting a particular place…

Endless pots of tea are made, breakfasts eaten, shopping lists made – we have a supermarket delivery on the first day, we bring ingredients for what we intend to cook, and sometimes the pre-made meals themselves (this year we cooked tagine before we went, and put it in the freezer when we arrived to be defrosted for the following Wednesday evening). However, we often need extras, more bread, milk, wine, a particualr fresh ingredient for dinner…

Then suddenly people are rushing – rushing to clear the table, refill the dishwasher, clear up and tidy round, dashing of to get washed and dressed ready for the day ahead, a whirl of activity, then we are piling out of the house and out to enjoy our day, and whatever it may bring.

Today, home from holiday, was a quiet day… just the two of us, a cup of tea, something to eat, then husband doing his art and planning a workshop, and me getting ready to write, once I have hung the washing out to dry… a quiet day with just the two of us…

A remarkable family

The remarkable family I’m talking about is my own! I have just come back from the annual family Easter holiday, not just my husband and children and partners, but my four cousins and their families too! It might seem strange to some people that the five couples and various attachments, children, grandchildren, partners, fiancé/es enjoy not just being with each other, but staying somewhere at least a couple of hours away from home, and staying there for a week, yes a whole week! What is more this is probably the fifteenth year that we have done this!

I have four cousins, all brothers and sisters (two of each) and we have been spending Easter together in all different parts of the country for as long as some of the children can remember. This year we were near Ross-on-Wye in Herefordshire, in the little village of Whitchurch. We rented a large house and for five of the nights each family cooked one meal, on the first night we had sausages, on the last night we had left-overs and curry. We traditionally always have a Sunday roast with all the trimmings and vegetables, this year it was chicken and pork. We also have, by popular demand, a pie – and this year it was chicken and leek, with suet pastry. The other three dinners were lamb tagine, chicken Thai green curry and lasagna – all delicious! We don’t have puddings as such but we bring cakes – Battenberg, two different fruit cakes,lemon, chocolate brownies, carrot cake muffins, rocky road muffins, ginger, lemon, baklava, halva… and more I can’t remember.

The younger people go off and do their own activities, which this year included a tree top adventure and canoeing, the cousins go off walking, or horse-riding, or visiting the nearby historical monuments… whatever takes our fancy!

We had a most wonderful time, and the best part was being with such amazing people! We haven’t yet booked next year… but who knows where we might be!