Thursday, 29 January 2015

Fictional Food Adventure: Reading The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S Lewis

As I have already mentioned once or twice, I was a stubborn child sometimes. I won't go into this again right here but the result is that I spurned The Chronicles of Narnia all throughout my childhood, and for no good reason. There they sat, on the bookshelves at the top of the stairs, available whenever I might want them, and I refused to try them. I didn't like the name. I was creeped out by the title The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, and just didn't think I'd like it. So I left it.  Until I was 18. 

But, when I was 18, I took them down and I read them and felt that the world was a different place. That I was different within it. And it's ok that I waited until then. It was best, that I waited until then. 

I have since read and reread the entire series, many times. Sometimes I will just pick up one, the one I'm in the mood for. Usually it will be The Horse and His Boy. Sometimes it will be The Silver Chair. 

Reading The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is always special. Because it's magical and adventurous, and scary, and good, and full of so many things that are wonderful. Edmund is wonderful. I adore his story. His Narnia experience helps him become the boy and man he was wavering away from before The Wardrobe. And the real goodness in him after his experience with evil, is unshakable thereafter. I love Lucy, and her pure heart, and Aslan, and his rich mane. I love Mr Tumnus and his paper parcels, and the lampost, and the wardrobe. I love Narnia. 

“You have a traitor there, Aslan," said the Witch. Of course everyone present knew that she meant Edmund. But Edmund had got past thinking about himself after all he'd been through and after the talk he'd had that morning. He just went on looking at Aslan. It didn't seem to matter what the Witch said.” 

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Fictional Food Adventure: Making Pippi Longstocking's Swedish Pancakes

One Sunday morning after a little lie-in I descended the stairs to our kitchen with thoughts of pancakes on my mind.

I had read Pippi Longstocking a few weeks ago, and made her Heart-shaped Ginger Snaps and her Cream Cake, so it was only her Swedish Pancakes that still beckoned. I knew from looking at the recipe in Turkish Delight and Treasure Hunts that these pancakes would be the thin kind we make for pancake day, rather than those plump, bubble-filled Canadian-style pancakes we'd eat with bacon and Maple Syrup for breakfast.

In our family (apparently we're weird), pancake day was a total pancake celebration. We didn't have some other silly meal followed by pancakes for pudding. Oh no!  Dinner WAS pancakes. So we'd start with a big bowl of tinned tuna and as each one of us received our first pancake we'd spoon the oily, flaky tuna onto our pancake and roll it up and cut off mouthfuls with our knife and fork. We'd usually have about 2 each of these, and I still love them now. I didn't realise at the time, but when Andy first encountered the Wrigley pancake day at my parents house, his world was rocked and he was a little sickened and horrified to see how we did things. He enjoys a tuna pancake too now, but I think it will always seem a tiny bit wrong to him! As the meal progressed we'd all branch out into our personal choice of favourite sweet filling. For years, my favourite was golden syrup. But we all liked sugar and lemon. I did once have a marmalade one. 

Anyway, I'd never considered this wonderful thin variety as a possibility for breakfast before, but this challenge is really encouraging me to try new things and a pancake is a pancake, whether it's thick, thin, round or oval. So I made the batter while Andy was still dozing and it was so so simple and quick that I think this might become a Sunday habit. 

We happened to have a lemon in the fruit basket so Andy, when he had trundled down to join me, squeezed it and made hot drinks. 

The batter was amazingly smooth and very liquid. I shall compare it to the recipe for our usual batter and see if the quantities differ at all, but the result seemed indistinguishable. 
Now, Mum always fried her pancakes in this lovely little cast iron skillet, with sloping sides, and I confess that pan really is the essence of pancakes to me. Oh, and her matt silver ladle with the wonderfully pouty pouring lip! It's such a part of home. She also usually had a little block of lard, which she'd dip her knife into and a tiny wedge would slide down the side of the pan and shine the hot surface ready for the batter. I usually use a bit of vegetable oil, but this recipe said to use butter. So I did because although the idea of frying in butter terrifies me utterly, it's all part of the adventure and I'm rising to the challenge. 

Now, having not fried things in butter much, (at all) I have no idea how much to use and the recipe didn't give any clue at all so I plopped a goodly nob in and hoped for the best. I think I used too much because when I tipped in a ladle full of batter the butter kind of rose up around the edges and got in the way. The edges bubbled quite a bit and made a rather nice crisp laciness all round, and the pattern of the surface was very unfamiliar when I flipped the pancake over. All in all, it felt very strange but it cooked fine and tasted fine but after 2 goes with the butter I reverted to oil and cooked the rest that way. The difference was really interesting. The under side was a completely different pattern and the edge, instead of being wavy was totally smooth. 

We ate about 3 each, all with the lovely fresh lemon juice and sugar, eating whilst standing and taking turns to fry. The recipe would have made 10-12 pancakes with 3 eggs used but I divided it by two-thirds for just the two of us. 

We'll be making these again when Sundays roll around, or maybe I could be really ground breaking and eat them for pudding after a normal main meal? No, that would be WEIRD!!! 


Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Fictional Food Adventure: Making Paddington's Favourite Marmalade Buns (Cakes).

Paddington loves Marmalade, and so do I. When I went to make Paddington's favourite marmalade buns just before Christmas, I had not yet made my own marmalade. So I selected a cute little jar from the shelf which I was given by a lady who runs a stall at our local farmers' market. It is VERY GOOD marmalade, and has a subtle warmth from some added ginger. 

I launched into making these buns one bright morning in late December, as I was due to visit a friend in the afternoon and wanted to take the buns to share. (Now that I know how nice they are, I wish I hadn't - they were the nicest thing I think I've ever baked!)

I went about it all wrong, and although I checked the recipe as I went along, I was a bit careless about the order of ingredients, and made assumptions based on other cake recipes, so added certain things too early, which made it harder to add the other parts. It was also quite a battle to cream the butter and sugar as the butter wasn't soft enough and I had jelly-like arms by the end of it. Anyway, in the end, everything was in, and the batter was smooth and full of air, so does it really matter? If we had a food mixer I'd have shoved it all in together anyway. Our electric whisk is usually quite good at cake mix, but not the initial stages of butter beating. And there's something about a wooden spoon, isn't there?

I'd gone out to buy some large paper muffin cases as we don't ever have these, and joyously plopped the mixture in. While they baked I got on with the icing, which is just icing sugar and lemon juice. The recipe said to make it thick, to spread generously over the top of each bun, but I really don't get much pleasure from lots of icing so I made it dribbly so I could just drizzle a little over each one. I rather enjoyed that part, and thought they were very pretty and appealing. I did try one 'naked' straight from the oven,
with a cuppa, and it was such a treat. I was so thrilled to have baked something so cosily delicious and soft and perfect. It really felt like a wonderful triumph. 

I took them off to my friend's house where we devoured them in front of a cheery log fire, and her daughter ate every last crumb of hers, right down to and including, the paper case. As she perched there, grinning and chewing, her Mum assured me that she used to do the same with cake cases and was very surprised that I had never done so. Who's weird here, me or her?

Having tried them now with and without the icing, I have to say the icing really complimented the tangy cake, and was just the right amount not to overpower it. 

This is a recipe I am keeping and will relish making again and again. I am about to make some grapefruit marmalade so it might be interesting to try it in these buns. Yummers. 

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Fictional Food Adventure: Reading A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond.


Dear Paddington.

I am charmed, delighted, amused, heartwarmed and entertained. These books are very special, but I never quite knew how special til I read them for myself over this winter. I knew lots of details about Paddington, because he is a very famous bear. But I had not grown up with the stories. And I kind of didn't know I needed to read them. (Yet another heartfelt thank you to Jane Brocket and Claire Nichols.) I started at the very beginning, a very good place to start. And I am still going. 

I have read the first two as chapter books, and then listened to them read by Stephen Fry. I'm sure you can all imagine what his voice talent brings to the flavour of Paddington. I bought the cds online, brand new and pristine, and launched into listening when on my own in the car. It was always a shame when I reached the destination and had to leave the car! Then I told Andy how much I'd been enjoying them and he wanted to listen too, so we spent all our Christmas journeying with Paddington and shared the giggles and guffaws and grins. 

I also bought the classic 1970s tv series on dvd as a little extra Christmas present for Andy as he loved the first episode as a child and watched it over and over again - just the one episode as it was featured on a selection video. 
Then along came Mummy's birthday in early January and her chosen treat was to go and see Paddington at the cinema and by now I was full of appreciation for the real spirit of Paddington and was so delighted to go too, as it was an afternoon I was not at the library. Once we were in our seats I passed Mum a lunchbox full of Marmalade sandwiches, from my handbag, filled with such scrummy marmalade made by my Mum-in-law, using the best fresh white bread and salty butter. It was a treat and a half. 
When we eventually pulled ourselves away from the cosy cinema, (every last bar of the credit music fully appreciated, of course,) I went back out into the world with a freshly warmed heart, riding on the crest of the wave of good feeling. The film was a real celebration of Paddington. When I first heard that they were making this film, I was a tiny bit appalled and wondered why they felt the need. But it did need to be made. It is just another way to appreciate a wonderfully drawn, loveable character who you have to make room for in your heart, just like the Browns did.

Of course, there were changes to the story, details tweaked, conversations altered, plot completely created anew, because it is a film, and not a book. But, these filmmakers treated our dear Paddington, not only with respect but with true love. The essence of that sweet bear pervaded the whole cinema, just as the smell of orange fills your home when making Marmalade, as I am at this second. While I type, the Sevilles are cooling ready for us to slice up. 

And we will all savour Marmalade sandwiches forever more.