Thursday, 31 December 2015


Some snippets from the past few days:

more 'wreathage' round the dining room light
a Christmas Eve salad
snowy pine cones
and my favourite - a cup of tea (in new mug) and a piece of Christmas cake.

Hoping you all had a very happy Christmas. 
We had a lovely family time, made all the more special as Tiny Girlie took her first steps during the holiday weekend.

Wishing you all a happy and healthy new year.

annjenny x

Friday, 18 December 2015

Christmas countdown - week 3

One week to go and Santa has been spotted.
 He made an appearance along our road the other evening.
I think Rudolph and the other reindeer must have had a day off, as Santa was travelling in a festive wooden shed on wheels.

And some more festive decorations in the form of these 'yarn bombed' posts in a local town.

Back home, I've decided to go rustic with some ivy in the dining room

and a rustic look also for the Christmas cake; marzipan stars and a jumble of dried fruit and nuts.

Just a few more things left on the 'to do' list.

Hoping your countdown to Christmas is going well.

Happy weekend.

annjenny x

Friday, 11 December 2015

Christmas countdown - week 2

 The mince pies are made. And just in time.  The mincemeat I made last week was vanishing fast. It was so delicious, each time I passed the fridge another spoonful disappeared from jar to mouth!

I am slowly crossing things off the to do list.
Make mince pies - tick
Write cards - tick
Decorate cake - ah yes. The question this year is how to decorate-
Should I go
a) retro and kitsch with roughed up icing and a plastic Father Christmas? This is the cake I remember from my 60s childhood; mum in a faint panic on Christmas eve spreading royal icing over the cake and positioning a plastic robin and snowman amidst the 'snow'. I like this idea. I'm feeling nostalgic. But there again, I don't really like a lot of icing and with dire warnings in the media about how much sugar we are consuming, maybe this should be relegated to the not good for us list. ( Though I don't want to make anyone feel guilty, it is Christmas after all!)

Or I could go for
b) minimalist and sophisticated. Ready to roll fondant icing and some cut out stars, holly and silver balls etc can give a very professional look. This is a tempting option, but there again all that icing..

so that leaves me with
c) rustic and natural; marzipan covered sides and a random selection of nuts and fruit on top. We love marzipan chez fenland lottie. And, although I know marzipan has a lot of sugar, it also contains almonds and almonds are officially good for us. ( I'm hoping that all the sugar doesn't negate the benefits of the almonds!)

So there we are- 3 options. Which way to go? Watch this space!

How are your Christmas preparations going?
I am a little disappointed, that with only a couple of weeks left until The Big Day, there have been no Santa sightings around here. I am getting a little worried that we have somehow been missed off the map!

If you happen to see Santa, do remind him to visit us over here in the Fens.

annjenny x

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Christmas countdown - week 1

Stamford ( a few miles north of here) is a beautiful town full of lovely independent shops. We visited a few days ago for some seasonal shopping.
I loved these Christmas lights hanging in the entrance to the famous George Hotel and in surrounding trees: they reminded me of balls of mistletoe.

Back home there have been more festive preparations in the form of some chopping, mixing and stirring.

Making mincemeat is one of the tasks I really enjoy at this time of year.
It fills the kitchen with delicious Christmassy smells.

This time, I tried out a new recipe, adapted from this recipe in the latest Waitrose Food magazine.
I made a few changes, substituting sultanas and cherries for currants and mixed peel and using 4 tblsp melted coconut oil instead of suet.
( The 150ml brandy seems rather a lot at first glance, but after standing for 24 hours or so, the fruit had absorbed a lot of the liquid and the resulting mixture is deliciously boozy!)

When all the ingredients are assembled, it's simply a case of mixing everything together and then spooning into sterilised jars. It will keep for up to a week in the fridge or can be frozen for 3 months. 
Makes approx 3 x 500ml jars.

I'm resisting the temptation to eat huge spoonfuls ( maybe just one or two little tastes!) - better make the mince pies soon before it all disappears ...

annjenny x

Saturday, 28 November 2015

mmm... sugar and spice

This was the scene a few days ago; one of those bright, sunny, wintry mornings just cold enough for a light shimmer of frost on the grass.
If winter mornings were always like this, maybe we would view them more kindly!

It was enough to get me thinking that Christmas is fast approaching and I ought to be making the Christmas cake.
Christmas baking is one of those rituals that I really enjoy. A warm kitchen, cup of tea to hand and something interesting on the radio - perfect!

Plus, I love all the dried fruit, spices and nuts that are so important in festive baking. In the interests of quality control, I may have had to sample some of the items as I was mixing away.
I used this recipe again from an old BBC Good Food Magazine. It is called a simmer and stir cake and is so much easier than the traditional cake made by the creaming method.
I also find it gives a lovely moist cake.

Here is the cake in its nude state ready for a little festive decoration in a few weeks.

And since it is 1st of December in a few days, a pretty snowflake for some (early) festive cheer.

Hoping your weekend is a good one. We are off for our annual pre -Christmas family get together at a local pub tomorrow - 22 adults and 6 assorted babies/toddlers!
The youngest there will be our very own Tiny Girlie who is just one and the oldest a great grandma of 80.

Should be a lovely time.

annjenny x

Saturday, 21 November 2015

soup ... and other things

A fearsome north wind is howling across our part of the Fens this morning.
It seems that winter has arrived.
So what is needed is a rich, warm soup.
And one made with a local speciality is even better!

I've sung the praises of Fenland celery before.  It is the first English vegetable to be given PGI (protected geographical indication).
You can read all about the history and cultivation of the crop on the Fenland celery website.

The UK has relatively few products granted such status compared with some Mediterranean countries, but several of them are fairly local to this area.
Newmarket sausages and Melton Mowbray pork pies have both been awarded PGI.
Stilton cheese has been awarded PDO ( protected designation of origin).

When we were first married and before moving further east to the Fens, mr digandweed and I lived in the village of Stilton nr Peterborough.
Surprisingly, Stilton cheese is not actually produced in Stilton village but in parts of Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.
 The link with Stilton and hence the name came because in the 1730s it began to be sold by Cooper Thornhill who at that time was landlord of The Bell Inn Stilton, a large coaching inn on the Great North road.
Travellers would stop at the inn, which was a busy resting place on the road between London and Edinburgh, sample the cheese and so its fame spread.

The village of Stilton is now by-passed by the A1, but the beautiful Bell Inn can still be found in the village.
A piece of Stilton, had I had some, would have gone very well with my celery soup, but instead I had croutons and a light sprinkling of thyme.
I used this favourite recipe (without the apple).

Happy weekend everyone.

annjenny x

Saturday, 14 November 2015

the calm before the storm

The calm before the storm in more ways than one.
These photos were taken before Abigail* came sweeping across the country ....

... beautiful saffron - hued leaves still clinging to the trees

and sunshine streaming into our house*

casting patterns and shadows on the table.

A tranquil breakfast; yoghurt, blueberries and this delicious granola.

That was the other day. The storm arrived but I have to say that in this little corner of the Fens we got off lightly; just a few squally showers and blustery winds.

I always think there is a lull of a different sort in the weeks between Bonfire Night and the beginning of December. A hiatus before the onslaught of Christmas preparations.
Now, I know some people will probably have already completed their pre Christmas tasks - neat piles of presents already wrapped and labelled, but I've never been able to get enthusiastic about Christmas until December is here.

I will be writing lists again this year. Lots of lists.
Nothing beats the satisfaction of crossing things off a list!

* The first storm to be officially named by the Met office.
* A detail from a decorative glass screen made by my very talented sister and brother-in-law.

This weekend especially, may our hearts and minds be filled with love and friendship and kindness  #thinkingofparis

annjenny x

Saturday, 7 November 2015

light and dark

I have a little confession. At this time of year, if I am out and about at dusk, when people have the lights on in their homes but before they have drawn the blinds, I like to take a quick peek in as I pass!  
There's something so welcoming about a lighted window on a dark night.

This time of year is all about light and dark.
Candles, roaring fires and of course this weekend - fireworks.
I love Bonfire Night. A celebration of light in the gloom of November.
When our girls were young we often went to an organised event. This year though, with the girls grown up and tiny girlie ... well, too tiny for fireworks our celebration will be low key. That's to say almost non existent. Probably just a sparkler each for mr digandweed and me in the back garden!

No need for sympathy though.  If we peek through our curtains we are sure to see some great displays ..and from the comfort of our cosy sitting room.
And it's also a good excuse to make a cake to nibble.

I'm calling this Not really Gingerbread cake. It's just an ordinary sponge mixture with brown sugar instead of caster sugar, ground ginger and a couple of handfuls of raisins. Then finished with a drizzle of icing and some flaked almonds.

A few things to cheer us up in the gloom of November : candles, fireworks and cake with a steaming cup of tea.
I'm joining in with Silverpebble and her fab making_winter project, encouraging us all to post warm and cheery things on Instagram and our blogs to help us through the dark nights and cold days.

Do take a look at her lovely blog and Instagram feed.

Happy weekend everyone.

annjenny x

Saturday, 31 October 2015

puddings 'n' pies

With longer nights and chillier days, it's comfort food that we need. So, it's out with the salads and in with the pies and puds! The other day, I resurrected an old favourite of ours: baked apples. I used to make these a lot when the girls were small. Baked apples are quick, easy and delicious. So easy they don't even require a recipe.

The fun comes with choosing the filling. After coring and lightly scoring round the middle of the apple, I filled ours with raisins, brown sugar, cinnamon and a few almonds. A knob of butter on the top, a splash of water in the baking dish to stop them burning and into an oven at about 180c for 20 to 30 minutes.

Then when the flesh is soft and fluffy as a duvet, take them out and serve, either as they are or with something creamy. I love the slightly butterscotch flavour that the raisins and brown sugar impart.

And still in the mood for comfort food, I decided to make a warming pie, like a good old fashioned meat pie, but with a vegetable filling. An autumn pie. After a morning spent pottering in the kitchen, I came up with :
                               An autumn pie with butternut squash and mushrooms. 
I made flaky pastry following this method but used 4oz/110g butter and 6oz/175g plain flour.

For the filling:
1 medium butternut squash
1 medium onion
1 clove garlic
300g mushrooms
15g dried porcini mushrooms soaked in 300ml hot water for about 30 minutes
1 rounded tablespoon plain flour
fresh thyme
lemon juice
sweet smoked paprika
creme fraiche (optional)

Chop the scrubbed squash (no need to peel) into bite sized pieces. Toss with a little olive oil, 1/2 teasp. smoked paprika (sweet not hot variety) and salt and pepper. Roast in a hot oven 180c until browned - about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile saute the chopped onion and garlic in a little olive oil. When golden remove from the pan and add the mushrooms to the pan. Fry until golden brown. Return the onion mix and stir in the flour. Cook for 2 minutes. Strain the liquid from the dried mushrooms in a sieve lined with kitchen paper to remove any grit and gradually add to the onions and mushrooms to form a sauce. Season with salt and pepper, thyme and lemon juice to taste. Add a dollop of creme fraiche if liked and spoon into a baking dish.
When cool, top with the rolled out pastry and cook in a hot oven 200c for about 35 minutes.

Makes a pie to serve 2 greedy people or 4 with more modest appetites.
I served the pie with creamed potato and spinach.

So it's goodbye October today. It's been a beautiful month; the month our tiny girlie celebrated her first birthday! ... and welcome November tomorrow.

Happy weekend!

annjenny x