Easter Weekend Treats

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He’s been! He’s been! The Easter bunny has come, given us all four days off work, and told us to eat chocolate for breakfast.
So how are we going to spend these fabulous few days? Well here are a few ideas!

♦ If you are more ‘violent screams than violet creams’ you can visit Miss Edmond’s ye olde poison sweet shoppe at the London Dungeons and take your chances with her suspicious treats.

♦ Alternatively and altogether more sugary sweet, you may fancy spending your Easter running around a dreamland fit for a white rabbit. Horace Walpole’s gothic wedding cake of a house Strawberry Hill is hosting a whole slew of activities over Easter weekend, including and enchanted Easter trail.

♦ This year also marks the 500th birthday of Hampton Court Palace and as such the old place is hosting a three day long celebration, culminating in a huge fireworks display.

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But Do I have to go out?

It is awesome to go out and about and see what this big old world has to offer, but this weekend I am really looking forward to keeping things low key. The first three months of 2015 have been fairly hectic and so I am planning on using this time over Easter to relax, recharge and review. Here are some of my favourite home-based activities, which I will be indulging in this weekend.

Reading
I always seem to be halfway through five different books, which for a completionist like myself is mildly torturous. Usually I am waist deep in research papers and textbooks and rarely have time to read for pleasure. This weekend however, I am going to make a point to read just for the hell of it. Currently on my bedside table are:

Bedlam by Catherine Arnold. A really fascinating read, particularly when I was working at IWM last year which is housed in the old Bethlem Hospital.

Goth Girl and the Fete Worse than Death by Chris Riddel. I’m so in love with the illustrations. Thank you Laura Trinder for giving me this!

The Lucifer Box Trilogy by Mark Gatiss – I have finished the first two and am looking forward to starting on the last. Gatiss at his naughty best. (Again, thank you Trinder and Wildgoose inc. for putting me on to this).

Murder Underground by Mavis Doreil Hay. I have actually finished this but I enjoyed it so much I wanted to give it a shout out. If you like Agatha Christie, you will really enjoy this well-woven story of murder on London’s tube network. It’s also one of those fiction books with maps and floor plans included, which I am massively in favour of all day everday. Thanks to Papa Notebook for sending me this!

Viewing
I will be catching up with my Netflix this weekend. Something I really enjoyed recently is Man in the High Castle, as part of the Amazon Pilots season. Obviously only the first ep. is available but this super stylish adaption of Phillip K. Dick’s novel is a really fabulous watch and I can’t wait for the rest of the series to go live.

Eating
I love cooking and baking – when I have time. When I don’t, it is simply a chore. I like to reclaim my love of the kitchen when long weekends arise and the pressure is off. One treat I make probably more than anything else (apart from tea) are raw balls, and not just because they have a silly name, but also because they are a healthy alternative to the other things my insatiable sweet tooth craves. They are super easy to make and can be adapted anyway you like to your taste:

81338820594dfb260817a674c32bbf1cDisclaimer: these are not my raw balls. Haha! What a funny sentence. I haven’t made mine yet because it’s still Thursday xx

You will need:
◊ 1 cup cashews (or any nuts really, I prefer milder tasting ones like almond or macadamias but pecan, walnuts or hazelnuts work equally well).
◊ ½ cup chopped dates – the squidgier the better. I like to use organic medjool if poss. but alternatively the harder baking variety are fine if you soak them in hot water for a little while.
◊ A handful of dried figs/ apricots/sultanas – delete as applicable, again the wetter the better so soak if necessary.
◊ Cocoa powder – I use Green and Blacks. Generally I eyeball this and use quite a lot to get a nice rich flavour, but I would start with 2 tablespoons and work upwards according to taste.

Method:
Make sure everything is finely chopped and then blitz together in a food processor (if you are lucky enough to have one otherwise, like my good self, you can just use a hand blender, but only use in short sharp bursts or the poor old motor will burn out.
If the mixture is too dry (this will depend on how much cocoa you use) add a little coconut oil, or a dash of water.
Once all of the ingredients have combined you should have a very sticky paste. Now with your hands break off small fistfuls and work into balls (about two bites-worth). Sprinkle some cocoa powder or coconut on a work surface and roll the balls around to coat them. Shake off any excess and sit them in the fridge to firm slightly (if you have the patience, if not, eat them over the sink with very messy hands.

These are great with fresh raspberries because, you know dark chocolate and raspberry is a match made in heaven. You can mix and match any of your favourite flavours and add different ingredients to taste – cinnamon, chilli, orange, vanilla, peppermint, almond butter. I have also made these without chocolate and flavoured them with lime zest and coconut and they were the best. Who need eggs anyway!?

Enjoy with your favourite book!

xxx

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A Wolf for Dinner

To celebrate the eagerly anticipated (by me at least) arrival of Wolf Hall to our screens tonight, I have snuffled out some Tudor recipes for you to try and munch on, whilst watching the BBC do what it does best.

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Cookery books were starting to emerge during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, however many people during this time would have been unable to read, and so recipes were passed down largely by word of mouth and hands-on teaching. Methods of heating food would have been temperamental and unique to each kitchen, so cooks needed to be skilled in managing the quirks of their own equipment – a tradition that was still evident in my Grandma’s methods of cooking even fairly recently. Measurements and scales were little used, and again cooks would have known the quantities of ingredients specific to their own recipes, judged using bowls, jugs and dishes.

What you ate depended largely on who you were. Certain ingredients, such as spices and sugar were very expensive, and so recipes making lavish use of these items were probably not for Mr and Mrs Joe Blogge, but rather the wealthier echelons of society.

All in all Tudor cooks were pretty clever cookies (excuse the pun), with an extensive set skills and a wealth of learned knowledge gleaned from untold hours of laborious preparation. Thankfully someone had the foresight to write some of these wonderful recipes down and the below are all taken from ‘A Proper New Booke of Cookery’, published in 1575 (technically making it Elizabethan, but we’re all friends here).

I just love the phrasing in some of these instructions, it’s so friendly. I’ve tried to not make too many amendments to the text, because interpeting and understanding the language is half the fun of historical documents. I have however added a few pointers in brackets and broken up the sentence structure slightly for ease.

So, here are some of my favourite recipes: Pigeon Pie, Chicken Pie, Apple Pie, A Dishful of Snow and finally Eggs in Moonshine (I know, too sweet isn’t it?)

To bake pigeons in short paste (pastry) as you make to your baken Apples.

Season your Pigeons with Pepper, Saffron, Cloves and Mace, with veriuyce (a sour, acidic fruit juice of unripe grapes or crab apples – I imagine lemon juice would work just as well) and salt. Then put them into your paste (pastry), and so close them up, and bake them. They will bake in halfe an houre, then take them foorth, and if ye thinke them dry, take a litle veriuyce and butter, and put to them, and so serve them.

To bake Chickins in like paste (pastry).

Take your chickens & season them with a litle ginger & salt, and so put them into your coffin (love this term for a pastry case), & so put in them barberries, grapes, or goseberies, & halfe a dish of buttter, so close them up, & set them in the oven, & when they are baken, take the yolkes of vi. egges, and a dishful of veriuyce, and drawe them through a strainer, and set them upon a chafingedyshe (I guess a double boiler would suffice). Then draw your baken chikens, and put therto this foresayd egges and veriuyce and thus serue them hotte.

To make pies of greene Apples.

Take your Apples and pare them cleane, and core them as ye wil a quince (love it).
Then make your coffin after this manner – take a litle fayre water (clean water), and halfe a fishe of butter, and a litle Saffron, and set all this upon a chafindyshe, tyll it bee hote. Then temper your flower with this sayd licour, and the white of two egges, & also make your coffin. Season your Apples with Cinamon, Ginger and Sugar inough. Then put them into your coffin, and bake them.

To make a dishefull of Snow.

Take a pottel of sweete thick creame and the white of 8 egges, and beate them altogether with a spone. Then put them in your creame, and a saucer full of rose water, and a dishe full of suger withal. Then take a stycke and make it cleane, and then cutte it in the ende foure square (whisk), and therewith beat all the aforesaide things together, and ever as ut riseth (beat until fluffy and risen), take it of, and put it into a Collander. This done, take an apple and set it in the middes of it, and a thicke bush of Rosemarye. Set it in the middes of the platter, then cast your snowe upon the Rosemarye, and fyll your platter therwith. And if you have wafers, cast some in withall, & thus serve them forth.

To make egges in mone shine.

Take a dishe of rose water, and a dishefull of suger, and set them upon a chafingdish, and let them boile. Then take the yolkes of 8. or 9. egges newlaid, and put them therto, every one from other, and so let them harden a little. And so after this maner serve them forth, and cast a little Cinnamon and suger.

Nom!

xx

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The Radio Times – Notebook Edition

I wanted to let you know about a few great programmes currently available on the BBC IPlayer because, well what else are we supposed to do now that the clocks are going back and it’s as black as pitch by four o’clock? I try my hardest not to leave the house unless a roast dinner or Trick or Treating is involved during this time of year. Instead, I like hunkering down, tea-ing up and getting friendly with all of the great TV on offer. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. There’s a reason TV scheduler-types put all of their best stuff on in the Autumn you know folks. I should know, I used to be one.

So, in this run up to Halloween the good old Beeb have come up trumps again with a whole raft of programming focussing on the gothic and the macabre. However, because it’s Auntie, it is all nicely wrapped up with an informative docu-dramatization bow. Huzzah!

So first off, we have Dan Cruickshank taking us through the story of the Scott family who, over three generations, were fundamental in the rise of the British Gothic style of the 19th century, all with a tasty dollop of personal tragedy naturally. Click!

Next is a very theatrical yet informative programme tracking the Gothic Revival in Britain within art, literature and wider Culture. Click!

To get us in the mood for Bonfire’s night which is only a few short days away (mittens at the ready folks), here is a nice dramatic reconstruction of the Gunpowder Plot. It is a bit patchy in parts and seems to skip over some events pretty swiftly, however, it’s a broad-brush recap of the political motivations and alliances that bore the plot in to fruition, if not execution. Click!

Although it was first aired a few years ago, Mark Gaitiss’ (he of Sherlock genius) walk through European Horror Cinema got a repeat outing a few days ago, so that too is currently up on the IPlayer. Catch it if you haven’t already! Click!

Finally, Dracula is available in all of its Hammer Horror glory. Peter Cushings cushing about and Christopher Lee being all imposing in glorious Technicolor – stick a toffee apple on a stick and call it a night folks. Boo!

Sweet nightmares kittens

xxx

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