The Friday Frame {15} ‘A’ for Adventure

11034076_916037468447208_1999102373_o

Everybody loves a good quote, especially in a bookshop. This particular nugget is from the Waterstones in Covent Garden (well, Flaubert originally…). I had ten minutes to kill before an interview so I sought refuge surrounded by books: the best place to hide from the real world for a little while. Especially in the travel section.

Listening to: Style by Taylor Swift, Time Machine by Ingrid Michaelson, Poison & Wine by The Civil Wars, Irregular Heart by Schuyler Fisk.

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Foodie Adventures: Regency Cafe, Pimlico

11024918_911096958941259_853623219_o

Regency Cafe

I found Regency Cafe during a post-interview wander, which left me floating around Pimlico in search of a late breakfast. I was instantly intrigued by how retro this place looked; white block lettering against a black-tiled exterior, with red and white checked curtains at the windows. Correctly guessing that this kind of place would not take cards, I walked past initially, found a cash point, then went back. Inside, it really was like a time warp. Faded photographs and movie posters in frames lined the cream- tiled walls, and the tables were like the kind you’d associate with a canteen. Linoleum. The menu was spelled out in white letters on those black boards that used to display cinema times: slightly wonky and with some of the letters handmade where they’ve been lost or damaged. The food on offer instantly reminded me of home: the North of England has managed to keep far more of these ‘greasy spoons’ open, and so the fried liver on offer was reminiscent of the tiny cafe where I waitressed growing up. In London, though, there are very few of these places left. The ones that do exist tend to have a manufactured kind of feel, like they’ve been created to look like this kind of cafe, rather than actually being the real thing.

11040056_911151898935765_2035151989_n

Specials Board (+ builders’ tea; bottom left)

In my pencil skirt and blazer (remember, post-interview), I was suddenly conscious of looking very out of place: the cafe was mainly filled with working men taking their mid- morning break; all steel-capped boots, dusty overalls and fluorescent jackets. The service was rough and ready, but that only added to the warmth of the place — you order at the counter and then, when your food’s ready, they call out the order and you go up to collect it yourself. The man behind the counter had the kind of infectious friendliness that afflicts all of the best cafe owners; he seemed to know most of the people who came in and out, and by the time you left he bid you farewell like a long-lost friend.

11030971_911096908941264_1368126265_o

Condiments in technicolour

Builders’ tea; strong, milky and sloshed into plain white mugs, sat on most of the tables, accompanied by the full English breakfasts that you’d expect. Some people were tucking into large plates of rice and curry, despite the early hour: a chalkboard and the industrial-sized vat of mango chutney beside the till made it clear that this was the lunchtime special: Wednesday is curry day, apparently. The food was what you would expect: it was fresh, tasty and cheap. Definitely no frills, but this is the kind of place that shuns anything resembling frills at first glance. Standing at the counter and glancing at the menu, a man made a quip about Heston Blumenthal, that British gourmet chef famous for his weird, wonderful and very frilly creations (think, snail porridge) which I couldn’t quite hear. The owner replied jovially; ‘Oh yeah, Heston bloomin’ hell!’ It had been a long time since I’d heard anybody say ‘blooming’, and it reminded me instantly of my Dad, who is a fan of that particular exclamation of incredulity or annoyance. I’ve come to think of it as quite an old-fashioned phrase, and it made me realise that this cafe was filled with the invisible London which I hadn’t really experienced before.

Coming to London as an Oxford graduate, I’ve experienced a very particular face of the city. The posh bars and cafes, the professionals I meet when I go for interviews, and the other graduates who I spend most of my time with. But this cafe, and the people saying ‘blooming’, are more like the community I came from originally; using slang, and drinking tea from plain white mugs in cafes that only have two choices of bread (white or brown) and aren’t interested in any kind of smoothie. Don’t get me wrong, I love rye bread and passion fruit smoothies, but I also miss the simplicity of the small, rural place where I grew up.

When I went to Oxford, I was surrounded by people that mainly (not everybody!) spoke very stereotypically ‘British’ English; they were ‘posh’, I supposed you’d say, for want of a better word. Most people spoke very similarly, and I was instantly mocked for my deepened vowels, and the way that I said certain words, like ‘butter’ or ‘grass’. And even though most of it was just friendly teasing, it made me feel like I stood out. So without really realising I started to disguise my Northern accent; I didn’t let my vowels get too deep, and I rarely relaxed into the richness of slang and sayings that I’d grown up with. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the way the people in this cafe spoke reminded me inescapably of home, and that was really very nice.

Well, that turned into something of a tangent, but it comes down to the fact that if you’re looking for two eggs, chips and a Diet Coke for £4, then this place is ideal. And its friendliness is only enhanced by how rough it is around the edges.

Listening to: Warpath by Ingrid Michaelson, I Will Never Let You Down by Rita Ora, Strong and Wrong by Joni Mitchell.

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

The Friday Frame {14} Jeté

11045718_911089258942029_1247561766_o

This sculpture is on Millbank, beside the river, and I took this photograph on what felt like one of the first days of a blue-skied spring. It seemed to match the vitality of the chilly breeze and clean, bright skies. Entitled ‘Jeté’, it was created in 1975 by Enzo Plazzotta, and is modelled on the dancer David Wall. I love the unique combination of grace and power which male ballerinas seem to capture so perfectly, and the way that this sculpture manages to show a sense of movement so exquisitely.

Listening to: The Want of a Nail by Todd Rundgren, Walking on Broken Glass by Annie Lennox, Trouble by Ray LaMontagne, Piano by Ariana Grande.

(Adding current favourite songs to the end of each blog post is something I saw years ago on this lady’s blog, and it’s something I’d like to have a record of to look back on, so I think I’ll try to remember to keep doing it. You can also take them as a music recommendations if you like, although my taste is varied and I’m sure somewhat questionable at times!)

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Bubble & Squeak: My new (old) favourite thing ever

When I was still at primary school, whenever we went out for dinner, it was to the same pub. It was called The Grapes, at a tiny village near where we lived called Wrea Green. In Year 3 we went on a geography trip there to see an example of a ‘typical’ village. As the officious seven year old that I was, what I remember most from that trip were the bright red clipboards, and the difficulty I had filling in my worksheet neatly on them. Seven year old troubles, eh? I must have been a ball as a child… But I digress. Whenever we went to The Grapes, I had Bubble & Squeak. A food surely named for children, and completely unrelated to what it actually is, of course! Leftover mash, plus lots of yummy veg and some stuff to bind it all together, fried until golden in butter. I loved it every time. Then we moved house, stopped going to The Grapes, and I promptly forgot all about Bubble & Squeak.

Then recently I rediscovered and made it myself, and it was as yummy as I remember.

10967640_898074383576850_1171287770_o

Arty Stack. Perfect Fried Egg. Win.

 

Ingredients

(Very flexible: you can throw most things in, that’s kind of the point)

– 2 medium potatoes

– 1 carrot

– 1 onion

– About half a leek

– 4 or 5 leaves of cabbage

– 1 tbsp flour

– 1 egg

– Salt and pepper, to taste

– Oil or butter, for frying

Directions

– You can of course use leftovers, in which case the veg would already be cooked, and you can skip the first few steps, but if you’re starting from scratch:

– Prep the potatoes and carrots as you prefer, then simmer in a big pan of boiling, salted water for about 20 mins or until they’re soft

– While they boil, chop up your other veg (I favour the onion, leek and cabbage combination) pretty finely, and saute in a different pan using oil of your choice

– Once the potatoes and carrots are cooked, drain and tip them back into the pan. Add the other veg and give it all a thorough mix/mash.

– Add the egg and the flour, as well as salt and pepper to taste, and give it another thorough mix until everything is combined.

– At this point, it’s best to refrigerate the mix to firm it up (I learned this the hard way…! It’s fine if you fry up the patties straight away, but you’ll have to make peace with them falling apart somewhat.)

– Once you’re ready to fry, heat some oil or butter in your pan (no need to wash after frying up the veg in my opinion…) and scoop in a burger-sized dollop of the mixture. Press it down gently with the back of a fish slice or a fork until golden and crispy on one side. Then carefully flip and cook the other side until that’s golden too. (Unless you have a million pans and hobs, you’ll probably need to do this in batches)

– Wahoo. You’re done. I’ve made these quite a few times now, and can thus say from experience that they are amazing with a fried egg. I’ve also had them with sausages, and once with bacon. But whatever else you choose, I’d say that tomato ketchup is absolutely essential.

This recipe is very slightly adapted from A Girl Called Jack; Jack Monroe is a very cool lady and a fab food writer specialising in yummy budget recipes. Definitely check her out if you haven’t already!

Everything else is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

The Very Inspiring Blogger Award

Well, the excitement is actually almost too much. (Even to me, that sounds sarcastic, but it’s really not!) And so, minus the sparkly dress and sequinned shoes I would have favoured for the occasion, I need to say a great big thank you to Osyth for giving me a Very Inspiring Blogger Award. One of the best things about blogging, or life generally, is surely to find that somebody whose work you admire also admires yours. Honestly, it made my week. In her own words, Osyth’s is a ‘story-telling blog’: the stories she tells are a joy to read, packed with witty insights and warmth. Keep telling stories please, Osyth!

So here are the rules for the award:

  • Thank and link to the person who nominated you
  • List the rules and display the award
  • Share seven facts about yourself
  • Nominate 15 other blogs you enjoy, then comment on their posts to let them know that you have nominated them

Here’s the very pretty award, I’m excited to add it to my sidebar!

vibaward

So now: seven facts about me. Hmm…

1. I currently live in London, but I’m yet to become a city person. I miss clean air, open space, Northern accents and recognising everybody I see in the street.

2. I feel most at peace when I’m by the sea. Or preferably in it. The times I have felt most content to just be have been when I’ve been swimming in the sea. The freezing cold, crystal clear, British sea.

3.  My mum is Northern Irish, and I have visited Ireland every summer since I was born – it has some of the best beaches around… And hearing Northern Irish accents is the most comforting sound ever.

4.  I don’t tend to call the people that I love by their actual names. I make up alternatives, and not just one alternative, but loads of interchangeable ones. I also make up words. I kind of like not speaking properly…

5. I love to dance. I haven’t danced properly since I left university, but often just dance in my flat when the mood takes me. There is nothing more freeing. Weirdly, when I’m not dancing, I am beyond clumsy. To the extent that I feel I should have higher home insurance allowances than normal people.

6.  I cry a lot. And not necessarily because I’m sad! It really doesn’t take much. I cry at songs, films, adverts on TV, books — anything poignant. Sometimes I laugh until I cry. I wear my heart on my sleeve, and I cry at the drop of a hat. No shame.

7. I’m a perfectionist when it comes to my own work, and my handwriting is super neat, but yet I’m really messy. This is one of those strange contradictions that people seem to find odd.

And finally, the best bit: nominating fifteen other blogs for this award. Here goes! (and only numbered because otherwise I’ll lose track, these are in no particular order)

1.  The Little Library Cafe — Kate bakes and blogs her way through the foods in her favourite literature. An ingenious concept in my opinion, and she writes mainly about books she enjoyed growing up, so her blog is often a delightful trip down memory lane. With food. What more could you ask for?

2.  Pointes of View — Lani made the move from the big city to a sleepy suburb, and documents her everyday life on this blog. Lots of beautiful photography, wry humour and tales of everything from tepees to kitchen renovations!

3. Steph and Penny — A fellow lady who likes to bake, with a KitchenAid to die for named Penny. This blog is all about having fun in the kitchen, and Steph’s recipes are almost always enough to tempt me to get the scales out…

4. Storyshucker — This guy can write. I mean, really write. I love his view that there is a story to be found in almost all of life’s moments. It’s something I want to implement more in my own approach to writing/blogging, and his stories have honestly made me both laugh out loud and cry.

5. Leaf and Twig — A marriage of poetry and photography, these posts are short but always sweet, insightful and beautiful.

6. Something like a storybook —  Morgan writes in a way that is searingly honest and really, really good. She inspired me to write and actually send Christmas cards by good old fashioned snail-mail last Christmas, and recently her poetry has been just exquisite.

7. Listful Thinking — A blog revolving around lists (one of my primary passions) that is also my favourite kind of hilarious. Literally, all of it is funny. Please read it.

8.  Taste of Colours — First of all, points for a fabulous blog name. And second of all, as you’d expect, the photographs on this blog are beautiful. And the recipes are in grams. Any British people who read a lot of (often American) food blogs will appreciate that fact a LOT.

9. The Ordinary Cook —  She is actually far from ordinary. Great recipes and an infectious zestiness (is that an appropriate word? I feel it sums it up…) make this blog one of my favourite new discoveries.

10. Cafe Argentique — Helen is a bit of a blogging newbie, but as she is one of my best friends in ‘real’ life, I am confident that her blog will grow into something that I will very much enjoy visiting. She’s a talented artist, and takes amazing photographs. And she likes cake.

11. Life of Sarah Beth — A kind of lifestyle blog crossed with a beauty blog with some general musings thrown in: just the kind of thing I enjoy. Sarah has also been very brave and upfront about her struggles with depression, which I really admire. Keep going, Sarah!

12. Luce Luxe —  Lauren is a fellow history lover, as well as a northerner living in London, so I can relate to much of what she writes about! We also share a bit of a beauty product addiction, and I really enjoy her beauty posts.

13. Glitter Bunnies — Another beauty blog (I love ’em). Heather has a great eye for design: her blog theme is gorgeous and her posts are always beautiful to look at.

14. Daisy Chains and Dreamers — A recent discovery, I have fallen in love with this blog.  It’s another lifestlye/ beauty one, but with a bit more craft thrown into the mix. Everything on it is just so pretty. And sometimes, well, that’s really just what you need.

15. Butter Baking — Last, but my no means least: this blog is another yummy delight of a baking blog. Beautiful photographs and loads of lovely recipes to tempt you.

To my nominees: of course, I hope that you’ll take part! But many of you may not want to, or have been nominated already. In that case, please take this as a friendly nod in your direction and a kind request to please keep doing what you’re doing. I love reading your blogs!

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Caramel {Millionaire’s} Shortbread

When I was in sixth form I once tried to make caramel shortbread when my parents were away. Yes, I was the teenager who embarked on ill-planned and over-ambitious baking in the absence of my parents. Crazy parties? Nope, flour in every corner imaginable and slightly ruined baking tins were more my style.  Anyway, it went quite wrong. I can’t really remember why, I think it got stuck in a tin which I wasn’t meant to be using anyway or something. Anyway, I thought I’d try again. Not to take this too seriously or anything, but with caramel shortbread it’s all about ratio. Ask any self- respecting lover of this traybake, and they’ll happily go into great detail about how much of each mouthful should be shortbread, how much caramel, and how much chocolate. Shop bought versions tend to be woefully uneven in this respect: think, a massive wedge of shortbread and comparatively inconsequential layers of both caramel and chocolate. A travesty. This recipe, on the other hand, gives you the perfect levels of caramel vs. chocolate and shortbread. Also, they’re super tasty. Well, I think so anyway.

20150203_113645

Glorious layers

 

Ingredients

For the shortbread

50g sugar

150g butter (unsalted technically, but I basically never have it in and salted was fine)

250g plain flour

 For the caramel

175g butter (again, should have been unsalted but I used salted and it was fine)

175g sugar

4 tbsp golden syrup

397ml condensed milk (standard tin size)

For the topping

300g chocolate (I used a mix of milk and dark, because that’s what I had lying around. I think all dark would be fine, but you might want to avoid all milk since it might tip these over from deliciously sweet to downright sickly)

– You’ll need the oven at 160 (fan 140, gas mark 3). Line a standard rectangular tin with greaseproof paper, making sure that there is some overhang at the edges – it’ll come in handy when you come to lift the traybake out later.

– Make the shortbread. Place the sugar, butter and flour into a large bowl – mix it all together, and then get your hands in and rub the fat into the flour/sugar until all of the lumps of butter are gone and you’ve got a soft breadcrumb type mix. It should hold together if you squeeze together a clump in your palm. (If you have a food processor, use that – I don’t though, and the hand mix option worked fine!)

– Tip the mixture into the lined tin, spread it out and use your fingers or the back of a spoon to press it down gently; you want it to be even and smooth.

– Now pop the tin in the fridge for about twenty minutes to harden things up, before baking for around 35 minutes, or until golden. Leave to cool.

– Next, make the caramel. Place the butter, sugar, condensed milk and golden syrup in a small saucepan over a low heat— heat gently and stir to combine all of the ingredients.

– Once the butter has melted and the ingredients have combined, you’ll need to keep stirring right to the bottom of the pan to make sure that the caramel doesn’t stick or burn. Bubble for about 5- 8 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened considerably – it’ll be thick, but still of pouring consistency.

– As soon as it’s ready, pour the caramel over the shortbread, and spread into an even layer if need be. Leave to cool.

– Melt the chocolate however you like – you could use the bowl over a saucepan of boiling water trick, but I favour the microwave. This works just fine as long as you cover the chocolate vessel and check/ stir it regularly to avoid burning.

– Pour the melted chocolate over the cool caramel, and spread it out into an even layer.

– Now just leave it all to cool. Once the chocolate is set, use a sharp knife to mark out and then cut into squares.

20150203_113701

Arty angles

 

If you write a blog, now is the time to wander around your flat looking for the best natural light. Once you’ve found it, you’ll want to put something vaguely attractive in the background; probably not that pile of receipts/bills or that tin of baked beans. Anything pastel or crafty is probably a good call. Even better if you have things that are pastel AND baking-related. If you’re truly dedicated, sprinkle some chocolate chips around about. Now, arrange your baking in an arty way, and take ridiculously-angled photographs until it looks pretty. Ignore the sceptical glances of anybody you may live with, surely they should be used to this by now?

If you have no need for arty and beautifully presented images of your creations, then feel free to just eat them. Much more sensible.

This recipe is adapted slightly from BakingMad.com. All other content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Five signs that you’re a twenty-something home for the holidays

1. You’re suddenly drinking a lot of tea. On average 30 cups a day. Every self respecting Proper Home has tea constantly on tap. In my house, a mug just somehow appears in front of me every 15 minutes.
2. You know those sibling(s) that you get on really well with when you’re living in different houses and have actual adult conversations with about your lives via phone? Well as soon as you’re back under the same roof you’ll soon find yourselves reverting to squabbling like you’re 11 again. And wrestling. And pouring huge vats of mincemeat over each other.*
*not really
3. All of the skills and abilities that allow you to survive normally evaporate as soon as you pass the threshold of your family home. ‘I’m pretty sure I have no idea how to actually use a washing machine… Do I have to put the powder in before I turn it on, or…?’
4. You have a really weird miscellaneous collection of your possessions still in your bedroom; a combination of things too big or too random to make it into the thingstotaketotheonebedroomflat pile. The same goes for clothes. ‘Oh it’s fine, I won’t take many clothes back, I have loads still left there.’ Yes, yes you do. But they’re all things that you didn’t take with you when you moved out for a reason. Mainly bobbly jumpers and misshapen leggings, bras six sizes too small and those brightly-coloured tights you thought were a good idea when you were 14. They’ll look great at that family dinner party.
5. You’re eating foods you’d unthinkingly filtered out of your diet. Roasted meats? Things that require a food processor? You mean you can fit more than one baking dish in that oven? THREE DIFFERENT VEGETABLES FOR DINNER?

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2015.

Ginger & Eggnog: two Christmas drinks recipes

The days between Christmas and New Year are often a little bit of a weird time; some might even say they’re anti- climactic. It’s almost as though when Christmas day itself is over everyone remembers that December is, on the whole, cold and grey and (in Britain) also often quite rainy. In the build up to the 25th, it’s like all of the sparkle and mince pie making and carols have distracted us from this otherwise evident fact. So to fend off that strange Christmas-is-over-but-it’s-still-winter melancholy, here are two recipes for Christmassy drinks to raise your spirits. We’re only technically on the 5th day of Christmas, after all. And one of my favourite things about the Christmas period is having the time and the excuse to potter around in the kitchen. And I’d recommend some well- timed pottering to all feeling the after-Christmas blues.

Eggnog

Mum and I wanted to try making something that we’d never made before. And we chose the most stereotypical Christmas drink we could think of. There are a lot of variations on the eggnog recipe. We went for one where you make up the thin custardy part first, and then you can experiment with which alcohol you want to add to each glassful. We preferred brandy in the end.

Ingredients

1140ml/2 pints whole milk

6 free-range eggs

50g/2oz sugar

1 vanilla pod, split (or a decent glug of vanilla extract, which is what I opted for and went fine)

Brandy and/ or rum

Cocoa powder, for dusting

Directions

– Lightly whisk together the whole milk, eggs, sugar and vanilla in a large bowl.

– Pour into a large saucepan and heat gently on a low heat until the mixture is thickened. Stir continuously, and don’t let the mixture boil.

– Once the mixture is thickened, take it off the heat but keep stirring as it cools down to stop it sticking or burning. (Remove the vanilla pod if using rather than extract). I poured it into a large bowl in order to stop the cooking and cool the mix down. Stir occasionally to stop a skin from forming.

– Chill the mixture in the fridge.

– Once cold, pour some into a glass and add brandy or rum to personal taste. Dust lightly with cocoa powder if you’re feeling fancy (I forgot!).

Eggnog!

Eggnog! And a mini glass! And some ivy!

 

Ginger Christmas Cordial

And a non- alcoholic alternative. This is a recipe which my Northern Irish Nana always made at Christmas time, and my Mum still makes it when she can get hold of the ginger essence which is the most important ingredient, but which is a bit elusive in England. This year she found it in a health food shop. This is gingery and spicy and perfectly festive! In pretty bottles it also makes a great gift.

Riddle's Ginger Compound. Sounds a little bit sinister.

Riddle’s Ginger Compound. Sounds a little bit sinister.

Ingredients

– One sachet blackcurrant jelly

– 900g/2lbs sugar

– 4 pints/2.4 liters boiling water

Directions

– Dissolve the jelly and the sugar in the boiling water.

– Cover, and leave to go cold.

– Stir in the ginger essence, and pour into bottles.

– When you’re ready to drink it, dilute it as you would cordial. It’s great with either water or lemonade.

10882874_870777266306562_260396003_o

The finished product

And there you go. Two drinks perfect for any New Year’s Party. Or family gathering. Or, you know, drinking alone watching Bridget Jones’ Diary.

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2014.

Christmas Baking: Mince Pies

I never used to like mince pies. But this year I’ve warmed to them considerably, for whatever reason. The shop bought ones we had in work were suddenly moderately enjoyable. But then I came home and had some of my mum’s. And they’re AMAZING. I know Christmas day has been and gone, but I recently learned in a Christmas quiz that apparently you’re meant to eat one mince pie on each of the twelve days of Christmas for good luck. But feel free not to limit yourself to one a day. In fact if you make these, I challenge you to limit yourself to one a day. Oh, and the crowning glory of a good mince pie has to be brandy butter. So I’ve included my mum’s recipe for that as well. She is, after all, the Queen of Baking herself. (Step aside, Mary Berry).

The amounts here make a lot of pies (six dozen i.e. 60, to be precise) so you might want to halve the amount if you’re not confident you’ll get through them all. Although they do freeze really well, and make lovely presents. Am I overselling? Never.

10884269_870688902982065_248138144_o

You literally have no idea how long it took me to get that swirl of brandy butter to look aesthetically acceptable

 

Mince Pies

Ingredients

For the pastry

1lb/450g plain flour
6oz/175g lard
6oz/175g margarine
4oz/110g icing sugar
Grated zest and juice of one orange

For the mincemeat

1lb/450g cooking apples – peeled, cored and finely chopped

2 stewed apples*

8oz/225g shredded suet

12oz/350g raisins

8oz/325g sultanas

8oz/325g currants

12oz/350g soft dark brown sugar

Rind and juice of two oranges

Rind and juice of two lemons

4 tspn mixed spice

½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp nutmeg

*I don’t know if this is a universally recognised ingredient, or a Daley family thing. It’s just cooking apples which have been cut into chunks and cooked on a low heat with a bit of sugar or syrup until they’re really mushy. You might need a tiny bit of water if they start to look like they’re drying out before they’ve reached a decent mush.

Directions

– The day before you want to bake your mince pies, you’ll need to make your mincemeat. I know this is a time-consuming process, but that’s a big part of its beauty.

– Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl until thoroughly combined.

– Cover with a cloth and leave for at least twelve hours, covered with a tea towel.

– If you intend to make all of the mincemeat into pies straight away, or within the next week, then it’ll keep fine in an airtight container in the fridge.

– If you want to store it for longer, then you’ll need to place it a baking dish loosely covered with foil, and warm it in a cool oven at 120c for about three hours. This slowly melts the suet and allows it to coat the rest of the ingredients, which prevents fermentation from taking place if too much juice seeps from the apples while you’re storing it.

-Then allow it to get cold and spoon into clean, dry jars. Cover with waxed discs and seal.

– On the day selected for mince pie making, preheat the oven to 180c.

– To make the pastry, rub the fat into the flour and icing sugar

– Add the grated rind and enough juice to make a pastry consistency

(If you’re a pastry newbie, then check out this tutorial from Delia Smith for a better guide.)

– Wrap in cling film, then rest in the fridge for at least half an hour

– Roll out the pastry (again, the tutorial from Delia above has a few tips)

– Now use a circular cutter to make the discs that’ll hold the mincemeat, and stars for the tops of the pies (or you could use another disc if you prefer, but I like the less- pastry approach since it’s lighter and more interesting to look at).

– Place the discs in the bottoms of the cupcake tray, and push down gently so that they mould to the ‘cup’ shape. You don’t need to grease the trays since there’s a lot of fat in the pastry that’ll stop the pies from sticking.

– Divide the mincemeat equally between the cups, then top each with a pastry star.

– Brush the top of each star with a little milk, then bake for 10- 12 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.

To serve, whip up some brandy butter. It’s very easy- in fact, it’s barely a recipe.

You need to make some buttercream by creaming together butter/ margarine and icing sugar. I don’t use a recipe for this, I just tend to start with some butter, then gradually add icing sugar until it’s quite a stiff buttercream. Then I add brandy to taste. To quote my mum directly, there’s only enough brandy when it ‘catches at the back of your throat’. So er, that amount. Beat it all together until lovely and smooth, and dollop generously on top of whatever you feel like; it goes well with anything Christmassy- Christmas pudding and Christmas cake as well as mince pies.

10882866_870689112982044_855229693_o

The artistic bite

And now you can officially scorn shop bought mince pies. And forever wear the smug smile of somebody who ‘handcrafts their own mince pies, actually.’*

*I don’t actually recommend saying this out loud. It would make you an unbearable Christmas guest…

In terms of credit, the pastry recipe came from a family friend who was an amazing cook- she recently passed away, so it’s nice to make these and think of her and how she used to care for people by cooking for them. The mincemeat recipe is the one my mum has used for over twenty years, which she cut out of a supermarket recipe magazine, and has since adapted a little.

All content is © Rebecca Daley and ohtogoawandering, 2014.

Ballerinas too early for music: a Friday poem, instead

I didn’t feel like a photograph today. So here’s a poem instead- one that I think is as near perfect as poetry can be. It’s perfectly melancholy and beautiful at the same time. I’ll let it speak for itself.

Daffodils

Ted Hughes

Remember how we picked the daffodils?
Nobody else remembers, but I remember.
Your daughter came with her armfuls, eager and happy,
Helping the harvest. She has forgotten.
She cannot even remember you. And we sold them.
It sounds like sacrilege, but we sold them.
Were we so poor? Old Stoneman, the grocer,
Boss-eyed, his blood-pressure purpling to beetroot
(It was his last chance,
He would die in the same great freeze as you),
He persuaded us. Every Spring
He always bought them, sevenpence a dozen,
‘A custom of the house’.

Besides, we still weren’t sure we wanted to own
Anything. Mainly we were hungry
To convert everything to profit.
Still nomads-still strangers
To our whole possession. The daffodils
Were incidental gilding of the deeds,
Treasure trove. They simply came,
And they kept on coming.
As if not from the sod but falling from heaven.
Our lives were still a raid on our own good luck.
We knew we’d live forever. We had not learned
What a fleeting glance of the everlasting
Daffodils are. Never identified
The nuptial flight of the rarest ephemera-
Our own days!
We thought they were a windfall.
Never guessed they were a last blessing.
So we sold them. We worked at selling them
As if employed on somebody else’s
Flower-farm. You bent at it
In the rain of that April-your last April.
We bent there together, among the soft shrieks
Of their jostled stems, the wet shocks shaken
Of their girlish dance-frocks-
Fresh-opened dragonflies, wet and flimsy,
Opened too early.

We piled their frailty lights on a carpenter’s bench,
Distributed leaves among the dozens-
Buckling blade-leaves, limber, groping for air, zinc-silvered-
Propped their raw butts in bucket water,
Their oval, meaty butts,
And sold them, sevenpence a bunch-

Wind-wounds, spasms from the dark earth,
With their odourless metals,
A flamy purification of the deep grave’s stony cold
As if ice had a breath-

We sold them, to wither.
The crop thickened faster than we could thin it.
Finally, we were overwhelmed
And we lost our wedding-present scissors.

Every March since they have lifted again
Out of the same bulbs, the same
Baby-cries from the thaw,
Ballerinas too early for music, shiverers
In the draughty wings of the year.
On that same groundswell of memory, fluttering
They return to forget you stooping there
Behind the rainy curtains of a dark April,
Snipping their stems.

But somewhere your scissors remember. Wherever they are.
Here somewhere, blades wide open,
April by April
Sinking deeper
Through the sod-an anchor, a cross of rust.

This poem is taken from Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes, 1998. All credit to him.