Friday November 30th 2007, 1:54 pm

The damson gin will be ready by Christmas.

I had my house for some years before coming to live here and last Christmas was my first residing here full-time. I discovered a bottle of sloe gin tucked at the back of a cupboard. The pricked sloes had been left to steep in gin 6 or 7 years before and not being a great drinker I had forgotten the bottle was there. After pouring it through a coffee filter and rebottling, the liquid positively glistened and the taste was sublime. So this year I made a special effort to make some more but using damsons instead of sloes. Getting round to these things might be difficult at the time but the pay off later is certainly worth it.

So now here we are with Christmas only weeks away, the damson gin is nearly ready and the Christmas cake, made a few weeks ago, is calling out to be plied with brandy. I’ve completely forgotten the stress of getting these jobs done and now only have the promise of the results to look forward too.

Plying the cake with brandy.

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Thursday November 22nd 2007, 10:05 am

A very cool iron

A while back I found a rare 50’s vintage chocolate mould in the shape of an iron. It has been on my mantelpiece ever since but with Christmas coming and this being the season of chocolate-shaped novelties I decided to give the mould a dusting down and make some ‘cool irons’. The drawback is that with only one mould I can only make one iron at a time which then has to be left till completely set before being released.
As luck will have it, I contacted Julia Morgan from the British Iron Collectors Club who by some miracle also has one of these moulds in her extensive iron and laundry related collection which she has been prepared to lend me. OK, still not exactly a production line but output has now been increased by 100 percent!
I have got a few other really lovely vintage chocolate moulds for sale which will soon be added to The Laundry’s vintage pages. Will keep you posted.

Wrapped for Christmas

Friday November 16th 2007, 4:19 pm

Fairy Feet

Thought I’d bake some muffins using my new ‘fairy feet’ baking cases. I followed Delia’s tried and tested recipe for blueberry and pecan muffins which you can find here.
I have to admit, the blueberry icing was supposed to be a paler pinky colour, but what the heck! They still look very cute all the same and taste delicious.
You can find the baking cups here.

Saturday November 10th 2007, 2:25 pm

I decided to get ahead this year and make a Christmas cake. This is good going for me as I don’t make this cake every year. The first thing to do of course is putting the dried fruit to soak in brandy. The next job is the ceremonious lining of the baking tin. I really love this part of the job, there aren’t many traditions that I embrace, but in this instance measuring and cutting the greaseproof paper, snipping along the bottom edges so they make 90 degree turns and pushing the bottom circle into place to neaten the whole thing off, is very satisfying. The very best part has to be wrapping the outside of the tin with brown parcel paper and tying it in place with string.
As I hadn’t made a cake last year and have moved house in the interim I had to find the right cake tin. Using the same tin is also an important part of the tradition so I had to rummage around in 2 cupboards and the shed to find the loose bottomed tin, totally backened from years of use and looking like something you wouldn’t dream of buying at a car boot sale because other peoples accumulated yuk is vile but when it is your own it is fine.
Whilst searching for THE tin I came across lots of other tins that I have collected over the years. Gathering them together has been rather shocking, like having to own up to alcoholism after being confronted with your stash of empties. Why is it that so often you don’t have the right tin for the job. That’s it, I’m not going to buy another baking tin ever (one day at a time).

Monday November 05th 2007, 7:06 pm

Gordon Ramsay - Photograph by Marie Louise Avery

The other day I saw a programme on TV called ‘Brat Camp’ where unruly, out of control teenagers are sent away to live rough for a week in an attempt to make them into human beings. Swear words streamed from the mouth of one young girl and left me thinking, what will she think when she sees herself in years to come, captured on film for all the world to see. The next day I saw Gordon Ramsay on TV and there seemed to be an uncanny resemblance. Is he really like that or is it just a TV persona. If he stops swearing will Channel 4 drop him?

I’ve decided to start the ‘Stop Swearing Gordon’ campaign. Don’t get me wrong, I like a bit of swearing and my reasons don’t spring from a prudish standpoint. A good swear word used at the right moment can be very effective. Someone needs to explain to him that the whole point of swearing is to add emphasis to conversation. The campaign starts here – next step, lapel badges!


Monday November 05th 2007, 7:06 pm

Last week I found some locally grown quinces for sale at the organic deli down the road and just had to buy some. They have a wonderful scent and the lady who runs the shop says that when she arrives in the morning one basket of this fruit fills the whole shop with their perfume. They look a bit like pears but have a strange downy covering on their skins. I plan to make some membrillo, quince paste that you serve in slices with cheese, preferably a nice mature Manchego which luckily for me they sell at the same shop.
Apparently in times gone by, quinces were sometimes placed in linen cupboards to scent linens with their heady fragrance so I’ll try placing a couple in my airing cupboard as well and see what happens. Just so long as I remember they are there and remove them before they start to decompose.

Quinces For Sale


Thursday November 01st 2007, 12:31 pm


A couple of days ago Maddy, the little girl from next door, brought me a bowl of pumpkin flesh, dug out of a large pumpkin she was carving for halloween. Here is a slice of the pie I made with it following a recipe I always use and that never fails to go down well. This pie only gets made once a year and some years I don’t get around to it at all.

Preheat the oven to 180 C / gas mark 4
Make shortcrust pastry to line a 23cm loose-bottomed flan tin: 160g plain flour, 80g unsalted butter, 1 – 2 dessert spoons caster sugar, zest of half a lemon (optional), 1 egg yolk, a drop of milk or water as required.
Rub the butter into the flour, add some sugar and lemon zest if you like then bind together quickly using the beaten egg yolk, adding some milk or water to bring the mixture together and gather it into a ball. Leave to rest for half an hour in the fridge, wrapped in cling film.
Roll out the pastry and line the buttered flan tin. Prick the bottom with a fork and place a piece of greaseproof paper and baking beans over the base. Bake for 25 minutes then take out the oven, remove the beans and paper and leave to cool.
Cook 600g of pumpkin flesh in a pan for approximately 15 mins with just a splash of water; as it cooks it will make its own juice so you don’t want it too watery. Put the cooked flesh into a food processor (or use a hand blender). Add to it, 125g soft brown sugar, half a teaspoon each of nutmeg, ground ginger and ground cinnamon, 1 tablespoon honey, grated zest from each of 1 lemon and 1 orange and the juice from half of each. Process until smooth. Add 3 beaten eggs and blend together then pour into the pastry case and bake for 50-60 minutes until the centre is set.
Allow to cool then serve dusted with icing sugar and accompanied by whipped cream slightly sweetened with some of the syrup from a jar of stem ginger.