I have a confession to make which might shock: I don’t like cake. There, I said it!I don’t ‘do’ puddings and cakes.The only thing I might eat, to be sociable, is biscuit or cookie. So here is my mahoosive, celebration cookie recipe…
Don’t buy one, make one!
To buy a celebration cookie from a specialist cookie maker at the shopping centre can be fraught with problems.Celebration cookies can be expensive and they are difficult to get home.
It is far more rewarding to make your own.And it is really easy.
You will need:
Ingredients for one 14” cookie
225g butter, softened
150g caster sugar
175g dark brown soft sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
280g plain flour
1/2 a teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
340g chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate of your choice)
I like gin and so was delighted to have the opportunity to visit Plymouth Gin on a recent visit to Devon. I discovered everything I ever wanted to know about gin.
A visit to Plymouth Gin Distillery
The cost of a tour of Plymouth Gin http://plymouthgin.com/ is £7 (no concessions) and it is worth every penny. There were about 18 others on the tour too. We were asked to lock away our bags and cameras and switch off our phones.A strict ‘no photography allowed’ policy is observed. Which is a shame, Iwould like to have iincluded an image or two of a Victorian copper vat or perhaps a few ‘botanicals’.
The tour lasts for forty minutes and is finished off in the bar with either a complimentary gin and tonic or a miniature gin or sloe gin to take away with you.
The oldest distillery in England
Plymouth Gin has been on the Barbican near the famous harbour since 1793.Parts of the building date back to the 1400s when it was a monastery inhabited by the Black Friars… and their distillery – it is now the oldest working gin distillery in England.
A link with the Pilgrim Fathers
Plymouth is renowned for its associations with the navy.One of its most famous sons being Sir Francis Drake. It was also the last port of call for the Pilgrim Fathers before they set sail for the New World in 1620 https://www.mayflower400uk.org/visit/scrooby-babworth/notts-attractions/mayflower-pilgrim-visitor-centre/. A wooden plaque in the upstairs cocktail bar lists some of those who boarded the Mayflower on their way to lay down the foundations of what we know today as the United States of America.An image of the Mayflower, the ship on which the Pilgrims departed these shores, is on every bottle of Plymouth Gin.
From its earliest origins in the Middle Ages, gin has developed from a herbal remedy to a major player in the spirit industry. Gin was based on the Dutch drink known as jenever. It became popular in Britain when William of Orange became King William III of England.English soldiers who fought in Holland in the 17th century, drank jenever to calm themselves before battle.It soon became known as ‘Dutch Courage’ which we know today as drinking alcohol in order to steady the nerves.
Gin was also known as ‘Mother’s Ruin’. In the mid eighteenth century the effects of gin on the family and economy were disastrous. Gin was the poor man’s drink because of its affordability. Drinking it had started out as a medicine but as it was cheap and readily available, men became impotent and women became sterile. This caused the London birth rate to drop. Also, drinking a pint of gin and having an extremely hot bath was recommended as a way to induce a miscarriage during the 1950s and 60s.
Botanicals are the core flavouring agents for gin. They can be roots, fruits, herbs or spices.The botanicals used vary but all must contain juniper berries by law.
Juniper is the most important botanical in gin. In the 16th century it was used as a remedy for indigestion. The juniper is a hardy bush and grows wild all around the globe. And it is juniper that gives gin its pine aroma and bitter(ish) taste.
When dried the essential oils obtained from coriander seeds provide an unexpected citrus top note to gin.
Cardamom is one of the world’s most expensive spices.It is from the ginger family and is often found in the rice portion of your Indian takeaway.Not much cardamom is needed.It can provide gin with a distinctive, spicy flavour that works with juniper and coriander.
Orris root is from the rhizomes of the Iris plant and has a faint, sweet aroma. If you are old enough to remember Parma Violet, then it is very similar to that.However, it is not used for its scent but for it’s fixative powers.
Angelica root, which we know as the crystallised green streams used in cake-decorating and trifles, adds another earthy note to the gin and marries the other botanical ingredients together.
The oil derived from lemon and orange peels is used as flavouring in gin. Different brands of gin use varying blends of botanicals which gives them their individuality.
The alcohol that carries the botanicals in Plymouth Gin is wheat-based and comes from Yorkshire.
Exit through the shop
Three types of gin are on sale in the shop at the end of the tour: Regular Plymouth Gin is 41% and is generally used for a standard gin and tonic. (Tonic water originally contained quinine which was used to protect against malaria in the tropics.The gin was added to disguise the bitter taste of the quinine).
And Navy Strength
Navy Strength Plymouth Gin which is 57%. It seems that ordinary strength gin – if leaked onto the gunpowder on board ship – would render the gunpowder useless. But they found that the higher proof gin, if accidentally spilled onto gunpowder, would enhance the properties of the powder.And so Navy Strength was provided for officers of the Royal Navy, which they drank with water.Ratings, however were still issued with their rum ration.
And Sloe Gin
Sloes are harvested locally from Dartmoor. They are stored in sugar and gin for four months to make a delightful, slightly almond-flavoured liquer.It goes well with Stilton as an alternative to port.
Copa Balloon Glass
I also purchased a Copa glass.This is the type of balloon glass that has a stem, a bit like a red wine glass. The Copa de Balon glass dates back to the 1700s – so not as modern as I imagined.
A Gimlet is gin mixed with lime cordial.Again, this has its roots in the Royal Navy, the lime provided the vitamin C and is where English sailors got their name ‘Limeys’ (from the Yankees).
A Pink Gin is again thought to have originated from the Royal Navy. Plymouth gin is a ‘sweet’ gin, as opposed to London gin which is ‘dry’, and had angostura bitters added as an antidote for sea sickness.
A typical pink gin is one part gin and one dash of angostura bitters.
So there you have it, everything you ever wanted to know about gin. Drink anyone?
This is the perfect vegetable accompaniment to many of our favourite, comforting, winter dishes.It goes just as well with a hearty Cottage Pie as it does with Christmas dinner!And it’s the perfect fruity, side-dish for game – particularly venison.It is so easy to make and it freezes well.
It’s definitely a family-pleaser – even for those of us who aren’t that keen on their veggies… well not yet anyway!
750 gms red cabbage, shredded (coût out the core, as in the picture above)
My Grandpa was in the Royal Navy during the First World War. He was injured and ‘invalided out’. He suffered ‘brainstorms’. As a young child my memories of him are that I was not allowed to ‘run around’ near him, or make too much noise.
The war to end all wars.
…and Dad 1939
My Dad was also in the Royal Navy throughout the Second World War. My sadness is that he is no longer here to talk to about it. I can’t say much about his war as he never spoke of it. Although I do know that he was ‘shelled’ and suffered injuries but that’s about it.
The Tower of London
In November 2014 – we visited ‘The Weeping Window’ at the Tower of London. It was poignant. https://www.paulcumminsceramics.com/ This was the beginning of four years’ of commemoration.
This set the tone. The country remembered the huge sacrifice paid by so many. We have so much to be grateful for – freedom and democracy.
The Tower by Night
And in the morning…
It was an emotional atmosphere as visitors filed, quietly along the walkway. Night fell on the poppies.
And in the morning, the sun shone on the vibrant, red artwork. The impact was magnified.
The entire country caught poppy fever
Later in 2014 we visited St Mary’s church in Whitby and saw the Christmas Tree Festival. It had a thought-provoking, poppy-themed tree. It outshone its neighbours.
And poppies in 2018…
Now poppies are appearing everywhere and rightly so. All along the highways, on cars, dogs, houses and shops.
There are many thoughtful and creative ways to pay tribute to all those who did not return home from conflict. Nottinghamshire village signs and lampposts are particularly vibrant as they catch the low, autumn sunlight.
Even our house wears a poppy
As this four year period draws to a close, there will be many more commemorations. Although when we think of poppies we generally think of the British Legion but it is not just poppies, for which https://britishlegion.org.uk
It provides support for the Armed Forces community – serving men and women, veterans, and their families.
It is thought that the humble plum pudding’s association with Christmas goes back to medieval England. It seems that the pudding should be made on the 25th Sunday after Trinity and that it be prepared with 13 ingredients to represent Christ and the 12 apostles, and that every family member stir it in turn from east to west to honour the wise men and their journey in that direction.
The Church and the Pud
However, recipes for plum pudding mostly start to appear in the 17th century. It had a very strong connection with the church.
The ‘collect’ for the Sunday before Advent in the Church of England’s Book of Common Prayer begins with the words ‘Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works.’
This led to the custom of preparing Christmas puddings on that day which became known as ‘Stir Up Sunday’. Stir Up Sunday for 2018 would be 25 November.I am ahead of the game this year.
Fruits from all corners of the world
There was a variety of ingredients and methods of making plum puddings.Many pudding recipes often contained meat, as well as the sweet ingredients.Before being steamed in a cloth the ingredients were sometimes stuffed into the stomach of an animal – similar to that of the Scottish haggis or sausages.
I like to think that the fruits and spices represent all the corners of the world and symbolise the harvest and survival food for winter.A pudding fit for a king!
A favourite recipe
It’s really quite easy to make Christmas pud.Especially if you have a tried and trusted recipe – like Delia’s. https://www.deliaonline.com/It’s always a winner and it always turns out just right.Thank you Delia… although over the last 30 years,I have made it my own.It makes 3 – 4 puddings dependent on the size of your bowls.
Get your boots on and get ready for a long walk in the lowlands of Scotland! Loch Leven is the perfect place for a long walk in the lowlands.There is an excellent, all-abilities path around the perimeter – the Loch Leven Heritage Trail.The trail can be accessed from several points around the loch where there are good car-parks. It is a freshwater loch near Kinross in Perth and Kinross, central Scotland. The loch is about 6km at its longest. Kinross lies at its western end and Loch Leven Castle lies on an island just offshore.Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned there in 1567.There are ferry trips across to it during the summer.And it is here that we chose to take a long walk – and a bike ride!
Walk it or bike it
My friend and I started the walk from Loch Leven cycles http://www.lochlevencycles.co.uk/ where our husbands were kitted up with helmets and bikes.The lady there was extremely helpful. I would definitely recommend a visit, especially if you are a ‘pedal-head’!Anyway, my friend and I got a head-start on a glorious, bright, chilly morning. The path was easy to navigate and easy to walk.Nice and flat. Just how we like it.
A view of St Serf’s Island
As we left Kinross behind us Loch Leven opened out before us.If you are lucky, and the water level is right, several islands can be seen in the loch. St Serf’s Inch is the largest of the islands and it was the home of a Culdee (a Christian monastic community) and then an Augustinian monastic community, St Serf’s Inch Priory.
Finally, it’s worth having a wander around ‘Todd and Duncan’, to have a look at the cashmere – some gorgeous stuff in there.https://www.todd-duncan.co.uk/Oh and cake too!This is where our 13 mile walk around the loch ended and we met up with our cyclist partners. It seems they had a great day too.
National Nature Reserve
Loch Leven is the main part of the Loch Leven National Nature Réserve. It is the largest lowland loch in Scotland and an important site for waterfowl. Over 35,000 birds can be around during the winter months.The birds arrive at Loch Leven from some far flung places, such as Greenland, Iceland, Siberia and northern and central Europe. A bird-watcher’s – and fungi spotter’s paradise!