The prim, old-fashioned charm of zinnias

I have no zinnias, and I confess I can’t quite remember what they look like, although they were often in our garden at home. I have a memory of brilliant shocking pinks and deep purples and pastel mauves… but maybe I am thinking of a different flower. The reason I am even thinking about zinnias is that I’m looking at my Modern Practical Cookery – my edition was published in 1936 but I feel it may have been written earlier.

Towards the end, in a section entitled ‘Little Dinners’ are monthly suggestions for dinner parties for six guests. I think it is rather a nice idea – and as well as the menu of soup or starter, main course, dessert, then a savoury, there are also suggestions for table decorations and settings.

What can equal the prim, old-fashioned charm of zinnias in mixed colours? Their bright hues are enhanced by the soft delicacy of a Chinese bowl.

That actually does sound lovely, I can just imagine it!

Here is a delightful menu for the betwixt-and-between season when the days of fresh fruit are behind us, and the time for heat-giving foods of winter is not yet come.

I wonder who wrote this? This is another reason I like old cookery books, they are so charming and often elegantly written. I don’t think I’ll ever find out, lost in the annals of Amalgamated Press who published it… but here is the ‘delightful menu‘:


cauliflower cream soup
roast chicken, bread sauce
potatoes, beans
plum jelly creams
mushroom toast

The soup is seasoned with celery seeds and paprika, there are a pair of roast chickens stuffed with breadcrumbs, onion, parsley, butter, chicken livers, seasoning and bound with an egg; the bread sauce is flavoured with onion and cloves; the plums are set in a lemon jelly, with almonds, and served with cream; the mushrooms are cooked in butter and served on rounds of toast.

PS I know my featured image isn’t a zinnia… the flowers I was thinking of aren’t even zinnias! This maybe a geranium… it is very pretty and pink and would make a lovely table decoration – in the absence of zinnias!


Family holiday – day 3

We take it in turns to cook for the gang on our family holiday, but whatever day we end up cooking, cousin Ruth always cooks on Sunday, and she always does a most magnificent roast dinner.

This year there are twenty-two of us sitting down around the long table in the dining room at Duvale Priory, near Bampton in Devon. We are having roast pork (with crackling) roast chicken, apple sauce, gravy, onion sauce, roast potatoes and Yorkshire puddings. Considering we come to the holiday property each year without knowing what the oven is like or whether it will work properly, Ruth is a marvel! her roast potatoes are crispy  her puds are beautifully risen  little marvels! Not content with producing perfect roast and accompaniments, Ruth gives us a lovely variety of perfectly cooked vegetables, broccoli, carrots, leeks… and more!

knightshayes 2013 spring (8)

We all had spent a lovely day out and about working up an appetite  we had met with our friends who live in Devon and gone first to a craft fair at a garden centre in the little village of Cove, and then to the nearby Knighthayes Court for refreshments and a stroll in the grounds.

knightshayes 2013 spring (3)

Knightshayes Court glimpsed through trees beginning to come into leafknightshayes 2013 spring (4)

Spring really seems to be on its way! knightshayes 2013 spring (9)Surely this must be a host of golden daffodils?