Tag Archives: biscuits

My Life as an Inaction Hero

I had a lazy day today, to rest after my hard day packing parcels yesterday. Did I really work six days a week at one time? Or even five? I feel like a friend of mine who,,years ago, detailed his activities shortly after retiring and said plaintively “It’s a good thing I’m retired, or I’d never be able to fit it all in.”

He had, of course, made two cardinal errors – said “yes” when asked to go on a committee and allowed his wife to get involved with planning his day.  Wives are wonderful things, but they are, unfortunately, not to be trusted with a man’s time. That’s why I intend having a shed or workshop when I retire. Ideally a shed with a moat and drawbridge. That way I will be able to call my time my own and find things even years after putting them down.

I’m actually thinking of making that my First Rule of Lethargy – an object which is at rest will stay at rest unless it is acted on by a wife, or the kettle is out of reach.

This is the first proper saturday I’ve had off for a while,a nd I was able to devote the middle portion of my day to watching Sharpe and the bits at either end to eating. Murder She Wrote served to fil lthat awkward afternoon gap. We are now about to eat vegetable stew and watch some quiz programmes.

I see on the news that Donald Trump is threatening to start a new social media platform and that the Queen and prince Philip have both had their Covid vaccinations. That’s nice to know, as we really need a new social media platform, and it brings my vaccination date nearer.

To be honest, neither really affects me as much as the fact that we are nearing the end of the Christmas biscuits and are likely to be reduced to eating Digestives by then end of the week. It’s just that I am sometimess eixzed by the need to write for posterity.

Gingerbread and Vitriol

I could start with my normal Saturday opening – “After dropping Julia off at work…” but I’m feeling like doing something a little different today. Same goes for the photos of the Mencap garden yesterday morning. They are OK but I’m just feeling like something more is needed. (As the post developed, not quite in the direction I intended, it became a little negative. It developed naturally, as I wrote, and I decided to let it stand. Not quite sure if it’s too negative or too personal. Let me know if you have any views on the tone.)

And that is why I am showing you pictures of cookie cutters.

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Novelty Cookie Cutters

I’m torn here. I love alliteration and I am committed to resisting American English. In the case of cookie cutters I feel as if continents are colliding in my head. I really don’t want to say “Cookie Cutter” but some irresistibly force makes me do it. There is no natural alternative – Biscuit Bodgers just isn’t going to do it. I’ll try Biscuit Cutters and see if that works.

I found the cutters recently whilst decluttering. They had disappeared without being used during one of the chaotic times on the farm. We made a lot of gingerbread with the group and these cutters (with six different designs) seemed a good idea.

The problem was that after the introduction of the Farmer’s Sister into the mix everything went wrong. It started with her telling me “we’re all on the same team” which is a management shorthand way of indicating we weren’t all on the same team. Then it progressed to her shouting at me because she said I thought she was stupid because I had a degree and she didn’t.

All I had done was proof read something I’d been asked to proof read and send her the corrections. It seems that this was wrong – I should have sandwiched the suggested changes between telling her how good she was, how valued she was and how hard-working she was.

There’s a vulgar term for this, but rather than expose my gentle readers to it I’ll post a link to it for those of you who are interested.

The truth is, I don’t have a degree.

I also, at that time, didn’t think she was stupid. I just thought that she had made a mistake that needed correcting. She had used a word wrongly. I can’t recall what it was, but it was something like uninterested/disinterested. It’s no big deal. I have to think hard when using affect/effect. Getting something like that wrong doesn’t make you stupid. If someone had corrected me on it I’d have thanked them and looked it up to learn the lesson fully.

No, what made her stupid, for I did eventually have to admit she was stupid, was her refusal to learn or improve.

We were stupid too – we should have realised that it was time to move.

However, that all belongs to another story, and stupidity was probably the least vile of her personality traits.

After the team comment, and the shouting, she started a turf war, and kept moving out stuff. We had to start moving it back home every time we used it, and eventually, things got lost in the confusion. That’s how the cutters became lost.

Other things disappeared and turned up in bins or dismantled in the workshop. Like over-sized children the Farmer and his sister knew nothing of how they got there. She took down the group’s art work and binned it. She once needed a book for kitchen use, so she took the garden diary book off the shelf, tore our notes out and took the book away.

Sorry, but it just seemed the appropriate time for this to be mentioned, and once I started, I thought I would finish.

Anyway, back to biscuits. I found the cutters. I will make some biscuits.

Here, to provide a happy ending, are some previous biscuits (and some peppermint creams.

 

Partridges, Photographs and Pheasants

After dropping Julia off at work (she works at one of the few centres in Nottingham that wasn’t closed today) I went to look for a sunrise. There was a small one, but as I chased it down it became duller, smaller and less impressive, so I didn’t bother.

I did manage to get a picture of a Red-legged Partridge in front of a backdrop of oilseed rape.

In some ways it’s a picture of all that’s wrong with modern farming – a non-native gamebird against a background of monoculture. As it’s the only decent photograph I’ve taken in the last seven days I’m not going to dwell on that thought. It’s a sign that I’m getting better and have now recovered enough brain power to spare some for photography.

I accidentally photographed a pheasant and missed a hare too.

I spent most of the rest of the day back in bed sleeping (I’m still convalescing, after all) and when I finally got up Number One Son made me an excellent beef and horseradish sandwich using meat left over from tea last night.

We aren’t popular: it seems Julia had earmarked that for tomorrow night’s tea.

If you think I’m unpopular now wait and see what happens when she examines the biscuit barrel.

Tree, rapeseed and a pheasant

Can you see the pheasant?

A Man Without a Smiling Face Must Never Write a Blog

Or, as the Chinese proverb says: A Man Without a Smiling Face Must Never Open a Shop. I’m dubious about many of these so-called Chinese proverbs, but the content is accurate, even if the attribution is not.

I’ve been unloading the stress of the day by complaining about roadworks, emails and various other things when I thought I’d look up the ten worst days in history. Compared to them I’m doing well. I have not been killed, tortured or rendered extinct today. Nor am I hungry, thirsty or in fear of my life.

In fact I’ve had a more than adequate day. It would have been better for the absence of roadworks, emails and the variety of other things that happened, but we did make jam and  biscuits, we did start to get the Technicolour Dreamcoat song right and we did have a visit from a representative of the Woodland Trust, who thanked us for our efforts in tree recording, gave us gifts and delivered copies of the latest report. It’s nice to be appreciated by someone. Sound people, the Woodland Trust, and I’m not just saying that because I’ll be needing a job in a month’s time.

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Our Woodland Trust Reports

Quite apart from the work they do with the farm, they have supported Quercus in various ways over the years and always treated the group with respect. Working with them is one of the main things we are going to miss when we leave because it’s a proper project with the possibility of important results. It’s a bit more serious than looking after a few hens or making biscuits, though I do like chickens and biscuits. Mainly biscuits, if I’m honest.

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Biscuits

 

Anyway, back to smiling – it makes everything seem better. I could have made myself quite miserable by moaning about my day, but instead I’ve made myself happy. (Though that may be because of the biscuits).

 

 

 

Pride, a fall and more gingerbread

I was very pleased with myself last week after the gingerbread baking session.

Obviously I should have known better, pride going before a fall, and all that. Or, Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18) for those of you who prefer your quotes accurate.

To put it another way, whilst having a second go to make sure the recipe works, I had a bit of a problem and the biscuits were not as good this time. I won’t bore you with details, but I will have a bit of a rethink.

Then I tried making Grantham Gingerbread. They are a traditional biscuit, first produced by accident in 1740, and not really like a gingerbread at all, being light in colour and sweet in taste, with not much ginger flavour. That will be something that changes before the next batch.

Mine turned out looking suitably cracked, but rather flat, at which point I remembered that I should have used self-raising flour rather than using the plain flour I had just used in the gingerbread men.

Even so, some had risen and had honeycomb centres, so they weren’t too bad.

Based on a post in Pies and Prejudice (a fine food blog, though modesty prevents me mentioning who writes it) I had an unusual salad with my lunch today – nasturtium leaves and flowers, feral rocket and a cultivated sorrel leaf.

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Foraged nasturtium salad

Julia and the girls started to assemble the poppy project ready for November, using the poppies made by using the bases of plastic bottles.

We had enquiries about Men in Sheds, an educational visit for next spring, renting the room, apple pressing and a forthcoming visit (the teacher wants to know what we have planned – I’m not sure she is expecting the answer “nothing” so I’d better get thinking).

At the end of the day, we had unexpected visitors, which was pleasant, and gave me a chance to offload some biscuits.

That’s about it.

I’ll be going soon, just need to get down on my hands and knees to find out what is jamming the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet.

There’s always something…

 

 

 

General of the Gingerbread Army

Goose Fair arrived in the first week of October, and started a train of thought that led to gingerbread.  From Goose Fair, through Halloween, Bonfire Night and until Christmas we will have gingerbread in a variety of forms. It started off with a look at traditional Grantham Gingerbreads. I’ve never done too well with biscuits that spread out, so I decided to look for another recipe and go back to that one.

It’s still in note form at the moment, but I will get round to writing it down properly soon.

These are more like a ginger biscuit when they are done, being crisp all the way through. My research (which meant eating several a day for three days) shows that they keep well. The residents of the Care Home we visited yesterday, and the Men in Sheds today all confirmed that they were good biscuits and had kept well. As these are people with years of experience in biscuit eating I think we will class this recipe as a success.

We also did apple juice and hoopla at the care Home, and talked of other fairs apart from Goose Fair (it turns out that most of the ladies don’t come from round here so we ended up talking of Shaftesbury, Hull, King’s Lynn and  Barnet). All in all it was an animated session even before Julia unpacked her mobile hoopla kit. Once the lure of prizes set its hook even the card school in the corner stopped to throw a hoop or two.

The only problem was that there were a lot of biscuits – forty medium size, forty small, six round and one odd shape. I tested them until I couldn’t test another one and when I went to bed I could still see them, row after row of gingerbread men…

 

 

The new biscuit recipe

I think we have the egg free biscuit recipe covered now. I’ve made a couple of hundred and I’m getting the hang of it, to the point I’m sure I could stand up and guide a class through to a satisfactory conclusion (as long as I don’t give a choice of flavours and as long as I remind them to divide the mix equally in their pair!)

It’s a versatile recipe. I made lemon flavour on Monday night (and lemon flavour with poppy seeds, which was quite good). I followed that up with ginger and caraway flavours on Tuesday morning. The lemon is good (using hand cut zest after finding that the zester has disappeared from the shared kitchen).Vanilla is a popular choice with visitors – that’s easy, with just a quarter teaspoon of flavouring. The ginger wasn’t very gingery so we need more experimentation there (two teaspoons looks a lot when you add it but it isn’t by the time you eat it). I’m going to try 2 tsp of fresh ground ginger next time – mine’s been hanging about a while.

Today I did orange. I used a zester from home and produced some long pieces, which I decided not to cut as I thought ‘what harm can they do?’ Well, as the bits stretch between two biscuits they can make a mess of the cutting. Next time I will cut them shorter.

Finally I tried it without dairy – substituting rapeseed oil. It made decent biscuits, though they don’t seem to colour up the same in the oven. Texture is a bit crumbly and the taste isn’t all it could be. All in all it’s a biscuit you’d do if pressed for a dairy-free biscuit, or for a bet, but not for fun.

The group enjoyed making the vanilla flavoured recipe and taking them home in paper bags. They had a tough day working with poultry in the morning and doing the tree measurements in the afternoon so biscuit making in the middle of the day, and biscuit tasting at the end of the afternoon was a nice change of pace.

The recipe –

Ingredients:

175 g plain flour

110 g softened butter

50 g caster sugar

 

Method:

Rub the butter into the flour

Add the sugar

Form a ball of dough and roll out about 5 mm thick

You should get at least 18 – I used a small cutter and managed to get 25 out of it

 

Flavouring:

Zest of two lemons and quarter teaspoon of lemon essence

Zest of an orange and quarter teaspoon of orange essence

Quarter teaspoon vanilla flavouring

1 tablespoon caraway seeds

Still working out the ginger, and haven’t decided on a measurement for the poppy seeds yet as I just sprinkled some on.

When to add the flavouring? I put it in at the beginning, Julia tells me it should go in at the end. Seems to work either way.

Sorry about the lack of science. 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

The other end of the scale

Two days ago we had five-year-olds, yesterday we had ninety-five-tear-olds. There isn’t necessarily a lot of difference between them at times, though the  older age group is easier to handle as they speak more slowly and don’t run about so much.

They also have better stories.

On the minus side, we have to visit them and this month (for a session on harvesting) we had to work in the conservatory, which is hot and airless at the best of times. Fortunately it was overcast, but even so, I felt relieved to finish, particularly as one of the old ladies kept asking where she was (despite us stopping to tell her every couple of minutes) and nobody offered us a cup of tea. That’s right, nobody offered us a cup of tea. The country is going to the dogs. First we lose the Empire, then we lose our manners and the ability to pronounce certain letters (‘t’ and ‘th’ come to mind). Finally, our tea ceremony (though not so formal as some) seems to be extinct.

Fortunately the Empire has come here, and it has brought a vast array of curry houses with it, so not all change is bad. I’m also growing old, so I’m allowed to be bad mannered and I’m becoming too deaf to bother listening to the inane lisping of footballers and teenagers (did they say ‘four’ or ‘Thor’, you ask yourself?) However, you’re never too old to need tea.

That was actually meant to be a serious post about the joys of working with such diverse age groups, but I was thirsty and I’m never more than a few yards from a rant. (A bit like supposedly never being more than six feet from a rat, though with different spelling).

After the talk we passed the biscuits round. They liked the biscuits. I think they liked the biscuits more than the wheatsheaf loaves, the corn dollies and the fresh vegetables.

There must be a moral in the ability of biscuits to bring happiness.

Though, of course, you can’t attain full happiness unless they give you a cup of tea!

The Remains of the Day

We’ve just been Rainbowed. It sounds delightful doesn’t it, like strewing rose petals, sipping sherbet or riding to work on a pink unicorn.

OK, maybe not pink, but you get the picture.

In reality it’s more like a whirlwind of activity, a lot of high-pitched squeaking (some of which only bats can hear) and a large number of biscuits.

I’m not good on biscuits, and the recipe was one we’d never tried before because we had to find an egg free recipe (due to allergies) which used the rest of the ingredients we already had. Then, due to the lack of anything suitable for zesting lemons (shared kitchens are like the Bermuda triangle for shared utensils, I always find) I set to and spent half an hour paring the yellow outer skin from lemons and chopping it small. And chopping it smaller…

It all went reasonably well, though 15 out of 16 opted for vanilla flavouring instead of real lemons. I will be making lemonade tomorrow. The girls seemed happy, the leaders seemed happy and even Julia is happy. I just wish I’d remembered that offering a choice of flavours to kids is a bad idea and that you have to tell them to share equally even though you think it is obvious. I know all this, I just wasn’t firing on all cylinders.

Pictures are of my poppy seed and lemon biscuits. They were plain lemon but after using the poppy-shaped cutter I thought, why not use poppy seeds. The first lot were sprinkled on top and rolled in because I only though about them after I’d rolled the dough out. The rest were incorporated in the mix as I squished (yes, it’s a technical biscuit-making term) the dough and rolled it again. That’s why they look different.

So, once again, we have provided a good time for a group and nobody has spotted I don’t know what I’m doing. That’s not a bad way to wrap up the day.

 

What a difference a day makes

It’s a slightly ironic title when you consider the actual words of the song.

What a diff’rence a day made / Twenty-four little hours / Brought the sun and the flowers / Where there used to be rain

What has actually happened in the last 24 hours is that the rain has replaced the sun and the flowers.

We have a small group of children and parents visiting to bake, hunt for treasure hidden by teddy bears and play with the chickens. They managed a Treasure Hunt and some outdoor sports before the weather turned bad, so we can certainly call it a draw as far as the weather is concerned.

After that it was indoor sports and chickens.

That’s not for me, of course. I’m performing my normal indoor sport of Washing Up. Funny how that happens. When I deliver a baking session I wash up after myself. When Julia delivers a baking session I wash up after her. Interesting division of labour; I’m thinking of checking back on our wedding service to see what it has to say on the subject.

At the moment everyone has returned from the barn and they are colouring in salt dough shapes of teddy bears – one to take home and one to leave for our bread shed. There is a prize of sweets for the best one. I believe the plan is to have a large number of joint winners, as it would be a bit rough not to get any sweets.

Meanwhile, Number Two son looks more like he’s been in a fight than a dental surgery.

Years ago, whilst playing for the Wakefield Trinity U15 Scholarship team, he was set upon by two Featherstone Rovers props and ended up looking like he’d been in a car crash. To add insult to injury he was one of the two selected for sin-binning after a 26 man brawl developed (his team mates not being the sort of people to stand by like choirboys whilst violence was being applied to one of their own). I’m not saying that the beating or the sin-binning was undeserved, as his (defamatory) remarks about the mother of one of the props had, in fairness, been intended to get under the skin of his opposite number: I mention it merely to compare injuries.

Two props, aided by a couple of second rows, left him hurting and with eyes swollen to slits so that he was unable to see properly.

Without any slander as to the virtue of the dentist’s mother he was left sore, swollen and barely able to speak.

Makes you wonder what would have happened if he’d upset the dentist.

As a trivial aside – can anyone link Wakefield Trinity to Dr Who?