The busy bee in the soote season

I wrote this a couple of years ago, but thought I would share it again…

Language is forever changing and evolving, and as new words arrive older words soemtimes fade away and are lost; however sometimes when you come across a ‘lost’ word, the context brings it back to life again. In this sonnet by Henry Howard, you might at first think ‘the soote season’ is winter, when fires are lit and skies are dark, but when you read the first line ‘The soote season, that bud and bloom forth brings’, it’s not too difficult to see that soote must mean something else, soft maybe, or sweet, or a word like soothing. ‘Eke’ we know as meaning to extend as in ‘eke out something’ and so in the second line eke might mean that the greenness of spring spreads out over the valley. There are other words too… but I think they are easy to understand… do you agree?

The Soote Season

The soote season, that bud and bloom forth brings,
With green hath clad the hill and eke the vale;
The nightingale with feathers new she sings;
The turtle to her make hath told her tale.
Summer is come, for every spray now springs,
The hart hath hung his old head on the pale;
The buck in brake his winter coat he flings;
The fishes flete with new repaired scale;
The adder all her slough away she slings;
The swift swallow pursueth the flyes smale;
The busy bee her honey now she mings,
Winter is worn that was the flowers’ bale.
And thus I see among these pleasant things
Each care decays, and yet my sorrow springs.

Henry Howard was the Earl of Surrey, born in 1517, and died at the age of thirty in 1547.

Thursday’s afternoon tea… today is the day for Thor cake

Thursday is named after the god Thor… as it is afternoon tea week, and yesterday i shared a recipe for one cake, here is a story from a while ago, andFTERN a recipe for the appropriately named Thor’s cake to sit beside it on the cake stand:

I mentioned a little while ago, a delightful book by Alison Uttley. ‘Recipes From an Old farmhouse’, and one of cakes mentioned was the mysterious Thor cake… whether there is any connection with the Norse god I don’t know, but it is more likely that the word derives from Old English, þeorf, meaning plain… but candied peel, spices and treacle doesn’t sound a plain cake to me, especially with lashings of butter!  It was also called Thar cake by some people and originates in Derbyshire where it was made and eaten in the autumn, especially for Guy Fawkes Day. It is a very old recipe… and may even have been made to celebrate Halloween pre-Fawkes! The name also might be related to the word ‘parkin’, that gorgeous gingerbread made in the north of England!

In the north of England there used to be annual week’s holidays called Wakes Week; in Oldham where I lived for many years it was in the summer, last week in June, first in July, where traditionally the mills would be shut for the workers to have a well-deserved rest; in Derbyshire, according to Mrs Uttley it was in November and a fair would come to the village with swings and merry-go-rounds. This was when Thor Cake would be made and eaten as a morning snack, spread with butter.

Thor Cake… according to Alison Uttley:

  • ½ lb oatmeal
  • ½ butter
  • ½ lb Demerara sugar
  • 4 oz black treacle
  • ½ oz ground ginger
  • pinch of salt, mace and nutmeg
  • 4 oz candied peel
  • 1 egg
  1. Warm the butter and treacle together
  2. mix with the dry ingredients and the egg
  3. mix thoroughly then knead it like bread
  4. roll out to a thickness of about 2 inches
  5. place on a greased and lined tin
  6. cook for about ¾ hour at  190C, 375F, or gas mark 5 until the cake is done
  7. cut into slices as needed, butter, eat, enjoy!

I have seen other recipes where it is put in a loaf tin and then sliced when cold, but some of those recipes add self-raising flour… there are plenty of other recipes available if you’re interested, but this is Alison Uttley’s version! I am going to make it and I’ll let you know how it turns out!


Links to my afternoon tea stories:

… and a link to my e-books and my recently published paperback, Radwinter:


Rogue, thief, adventurer

I came across a word which not only was new to me but was so new that I couldn’t guess what it meant. it was describing someone and called them a picaroon; was this positive or negative? I had no idea. I was reminded of other words ending with ‘oon’ – macaroon, maroon, racoon, typhoon… but the word is from the Spanish and actually means  a rogue, thief, adventurer – particularly in the  pirate sense.

There are an amazing number of words ending in ‘oon’, actually, not counting those 4-letter ones like soon and boon, or 5-letter ones like spoon… in fact as far as I can find out there are more than seventy! here is a tiny sample:

  • gombroon – white pottery
  • bradoon – a small ringed snaffle
  • madzoon – Caspian sea yoghurt
  • godroon – a rounded moulding
  • matzoon – same as madzoon
  • dahoon – an evergreen shrub
  • gaboon – a viper
  • ratoon – a new shoot

If by some chance, any of these unusual words should crop up in the quiz, then I hope I remember what they mean!!

And here are four contrabassoons:


Wednesday – anyone for tea?

It’s afternoon tea week!! On Sunday in inadvertent anticipation, I shared my treacle scones recipe, then on Monday I had a look at the afternoon tea menu from the Ritz in London… just a little beyond my pocket! Yesterday I discovered the wonderfully named shooting star open sandwich – doesn’t the name just  make you want to wolf it down? So today, I’m thinking about cake… you have to have cake with a proper afternoon tea.

On Sunday, and again at the time I didn’t realise it was going to be ATW (afternoon tea week) and I made a delicious cake by one of my favourite cooks, Maryam, who shares some yumptious Persian recipes and is going to publish a book of them next year (I’m sure she is excited, so am I!) It caught my eye not only because the picture looked so enticing, but also it sounded interesting, olive oil, squash, pistachios? Sounds good to me. So I made it – I’ve had trouble with cakes using oil before, but not this one!! So delicious!! Don’t just take my word for it, here’s a link to the recipe, go ahead, make it! The recipe works and it’s yummy:

So for my afternoon tea I would definitely have this… and what else, you have to have at least two types of cake!

Going back to Wednesday, named after Woden the Norse god, it’s not necessarily a great day to be born, Wednesday’s child is full of woe… and the Irish and Scottish name for the day refers to fasting… not a cake day then… I’m struggling to find a cake associated with Wednesday or with Woden, but a further link is the planet mercury – so… according to Vedic astrology mung beans are the thing for Wednesday… but no, not for cakes! However, on another site I find that mercury in astrological medicine from the sixteenth century, is associated with carrots and nuts!! What does this mean? it means carrot cake! My favourite!!

Here is a version with pineapple as well, and desiccated coconut. it is so moist and delicious!

Carrot, pineapple and coconut cake

  • 9 oz plain flour
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • 7 oz brown sugar
  • 5½ fl oz oil (following my recent success with Maryam’s cake I now use olive oil)
  • 2 medium carrots finely grated, or processed (but not to a mush – the bits have to be carroty still)
  • 8½ oz crushed pineapple, undrained
  • 2 oz desiccated coconut
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (as I don’t like cinnamon I would use mixed spice or allspice)
  • cream cheese frosting (3 oz cream cheese, 2 oz butter, 11 oz icing sugar – I like a lemon flavour but you can add vanilla if you prefer)
  • nuts of your choice to decorate I like walnuts, pecan or pistachio but have what you like
  1. prepare a 9×9 cake tin (greased and lined)
  2. mix dry ingredients
  3. add all the other ingredients and mix well, really well
  4. bake at 350° F, 180° C, gas mark 4 for about 35 mins (this is what the recipe says, in my oven it takes  another 15-20 mins) check and take out if done, or leave in for a few more minutes
  5. when cool, decorate with the frosting and nuts


Links to my afternoon tea stories:

… and a link to my e-books and my recently published paperback, Radwinter:


Got it wrong!

Tonight at the pub quiz, the question was about the Shangri-Las what was their hit in the UK… OK,so it’s easy now to remember,now I’m home, but in the pressure of the quiz where it is one of twenty-five questions which came thick and fast, I just couldn’t remember. I knew they were a 60’s band, i could even hear them singing in my head, but could I remember what their hit song was… so easy now I’m home, ‘Leader of the Pack’.

It was written by George Morton, Jeff Barry, and Ellie Greenwich and it became the number one  hit in 1964. The Shangri-Las were two sisters Mary Weiss and Elizabeth  Weiss,  and identical twins Marguerite and Mary Ann Ganser.


Afternoon tea week… it’s Tuesday!

It’s afternoon tea week – I didn’t know until yesterday that there was such a thing… is it a thing? Yes apparently it’s a thing (I’ve also been writing about ‘things’) As it is Tuesday today I wondered if there were any particular Tuesday treats which would be nice for today’s afternoon tea.

The name Tuesday comes from the ancient Germanic/Viking god Týr – many stories, myths and legends connected to him, but as far as I could find out, not cakes, pastries, scones or eclairs (well, of course not – I am being a bit silly) However I did find a popular and decadent sounding open sandwich on the menu in a Danish place whose name comes from Týr. There are quite a lot of Scandinavian places with links in their names, and on English one:

  • Tuesley, England – Tīw’s clearing
  • Tisvilde,  Denmark –  Týr’s spring
  • Tissø, ,Denmark – Týr’s lake
  • Thisted,  Denmark – Týr’s place”
  • Tiveden, Sweden – Týr’s wood
  • Tyrsjön (2) – Sweden – Tyr Lake

The open sandwich I found is actually found in lots of Danish places and lots of Danish menus (although I’ve never seen anyone eating one in any of the Danish crime dramas I watch!) It’s called ‘shooting star sandwich’ – wouldn’t that be just wonderful on an afternoon tea menu! However, it is often quite a large sandwich, more of a light meal really, but you could make a petite and delicate one – or lille og delikat as they might say in Denmark.

Here is a list of ingredients (everyone’s recipe seems different)  which you arrange beautifully on some buttered rye bread:

Stjerneskud  – shooting star open sandwich

  • fried filet of sole/plaice
  • smoked/cured  salmon/pickled herring
  • cod’s roe/caviar
  • prawns
  • asparagus
  • dill
  • lettuce
  • optional tomatoes
  • dressing/mayonnaise/marie rose sauce
  • lemon wedges

As with all ‘traditional’ recipes there seem a hundred and one different versions. If I’m ever lucky enough to go to Denmark, I shall see if I can find one!

Here’s a link to my ‘thing’ post: