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Odds blog: Shaken and Stirred

Posted by indigodream on 22 November, 2009

Boat Blog: Tuesday 17th November & Sunday 22nd November

Blue still glazed over after yesterday's anaesthetic - greyhounds take a little longer to recover because they're so lean.  He's absolutely fine now.

Blue still glazed over after yesterday's anaesthetic - greyhounds take a little longer to recover because they're so lean. He's absolutely fine now.

Tuesday lunchtime was the opportunity for Richard to sneak onto the boat. I was to have a dog free outing as they were both looking a bit sorry for themselves – Lou may have a kidney problem so her post-toe amputation anti-inflammatories were restricted, Blue had been in for some shockwave treatment to fuse his toe and was only slowly recovering from having been knocked out.

The boat was fine but I noticed that the Kiwis next door had tied a rope across the pontoon to keep their boat stable. It is awkward at Paddington, the mooring bollards are not in useful places but as the Kiwis had looked quite well tied they must have been shaken up by some heavy winds in the Paddington Basin wind tunnel to need an extra rope.

Tuesday lunchtime was a fine time to go boating, the sun was out, the day was better than many summer days; it was such a shame that all I was doing was moving the boat out from Paddington (before our 7 days were up) and just round to the visitor moorings in Little Venice. Life will be easier when our winter moorings come free!

Sunday was the opportunity for a longer cruise. The women were meeting to have a stir – the men needed to get away. The plan was to start from Paddington Basin at 10am which meant that I had to get to the boat by around 9am to wind and then move the boat back to the Basin. Leaving just after 8am on Sunday is fantastic – nice quiet roads.  First big question once I got to Little Venice, was the canal wide enough to turn the boat without going 25 minutes to the next winding hole? A bit of technology told me that the canal was 18.17m wide, our boat is 59′ 9″ (18.21m) according to our RCD, so too narrow; but if I let the front overhang over the towpath would I manage it? It was worth a try but just as I came almost square the rear fender jammed against the wall. I could not push the boat round, did not want to try too hard in case I got wedged, so onto plan “B” – reverse back to the pool. Not easy at the best of times, worse today as I managed to meet 4 boats coming towards me in that short stretch!

Lou looking very sorry for herself - she's much happier now that the bandage is off and the stitches are out; she's healing very well.

Lou looking very sorry for herself - she's much happier now that the bandage is off and the stitches are out; she's healing very well.

Once in the basin I met up with Liam and Neil in a perfect bit of coordination and we headed off for Camden fueled by a major coffee brew. It was a little breezy, dry and mild but not warm enough for the African Hunting Dogs to be out :-(. We turned just above the locks in Camden and moored up on the stop ‘n’ shop moorings for a quick wonder round the market. Ten minutes quickly turned into half an hour, we could have spent all day in the market but stirring wives were calling.  I found out that the ‘covered’ market was the old stables which once housed 420 horses – mainly from the canal boats. On the way back to Camden we fueled up on more coffee just as the weather changed, and boy did it change. The wind got up, the rain increased, until at one point it was like being attacked by a power shower.

Our previous mooring had been snatched by 2 boats (their right to do so) who moored way apart (why do people do that?) making it a bit tight for us to moor before a section of paved (ie hard to bang pins in) towpath but we just managed it. Despite the power shower treatment it was an enjoyable morning’s cruise. We struggled back through the weekend shopping traffic but managed to make into the Castle in Outwood before the women. Landlord Warwick now has a second pub so spends less time in the Castle, his presence is missed but we still had a good Sunday roast and the odd medicinal hot whisky and perhaps a tiny amount of beer. (Note from Sue: I had diet coke!)

Dog Update

On the way back from the pub Richard stopped off at a field with rabbits. He reports that the dogs had a fantastic time, both ran well and looked so pleased with themselves at chasing rabbits across the field even if they never even got close to any of them!

Pudding Blog: Sunday 21st November

I’ve been making my own Christmas puddings for years, having got fed up with paying for something that I can make so easily. But last year I decided to try and establish a new tradition and get as many womenfolk together as I could fit into my kitchen for  ‘Stir-up’ Sunday – the Sunday before advent and the age-old day for mixing Christmas puddings.

Last year I tested the idea with one of my dear friends, Jenny, and her daughter Hannah. This year, my kitchen’s been doubled in size by our new conservatory so I went to town with the invites!

By 11.30am I had the joyous company of friends Jenny, daughter Hannah, Lena and 2-year old son Seamus, sisters-in-law Alina and Danusia and Danusia’s husband-to-be who very romantically came out to spend the morning adoring her. The rest of the menfolk went boating…….

Each woman had given me her recipe options and I’d spent the previous evening weighing the fruit and packing it into bags to soak with their choice of alcohol (note: this method worked well!) – the smell alone was intoxicating! I also printed individualised recipe cards for each, laid out the ingredients and the equipment they’d need.

So when they arrived we just needed a round of refreshments then everyone was good to go. In the meanwhile, I baked some Danish Jewel Bread – a traditional Christmas fruit bread, it’s very fine when toasted and coated with jam from the vast supply that I made from this year’s plum crop (45 jars so far and enough fruit to make another 45 in the freezer!).

It was such a hospitable event – I couldn’t have asked for more – good company and good cooking, two of my favourite things (after greyhounds and boating, of course).

There were two funny incidents in the day – I’d laid down one of the dogs’ sheepskins on the conservatory floor for Danusia’s dog, Polo, to lie on but Blue promptly picked it up (the sheepskin that is, not Polo) and put it back on his bed where it belonged. Polo did rather boldly lie on Lou’s bed later on (her back was turned), but he didn’t tough it out for long and made sure that he’d scarpered before she noticed….

The other funny thing was Seamus’ ‘help’ with the pudding – having successfully retrieved a pestle ‘n mortar, an egg and a pot of mixed peel from his curious grasp, we weren’t quick enough to stop him from pouring the best part of a pot of salt into Lena’s pudding. She got most of it out so I hope it’ll still taste good!

We’d got the puddings all mixed by 12.30pm – it’s not a difficult recipe and all the women had a pudding to take home for cooking. They also had a loaf each of jewel bread, which smelled fantastic, as only freshly baked spiced bread can. I also became a jam nuisance and wouldn’t let them leave until they’d taken as many pots as they could carry.

With our chores done we all went down to our local pub, The Castle, for lunch. We got there at exactly the same time as the men and spend an even more convivial couple of hours enjoying a fine Sunday lunch.

It’s been a wonderful day and, judging by everyone’s response, this is destined to become a new tradition, as I’d hoped it would.

There’s only one downside – I’ve always been praised beyond all reason for my Christmas puddings because everyone thought they were difficult to make, but now they know the truth – it’s as simple as ‘stirring up’ all the ingredients……

If you’d like to make your own Stir-up Sunday then here are the recipes/options that I gave to the ladies in my life. If you want a recipe for the jewel bread then leave a comment and I’ll send it on.

Pudding Options:

These are ingredients that can be varied from pudding to pudding….

For a 1 litre pudding basin:

12oz of fruit – choose any combination/proportion of raisins, currants, sultanas, and dates
5oz of mixed peel and/or cherries – choose your proportions
5oz of nuts – choose any combination/proportion of almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, macademias, pecans
2tsp spice – choose from any combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, mace
Alcohol – choose from any combination of a base such as rum, whisky or brandy; I also use fruit liqueurs for extra richness –  choose from peach, apricot, apple, cherry, orange or mandarin; amaretto might also give a good flavour.

Recipe Card (sample – will vary with the options chosen above)

Note: This was adapted from the recipe in my trusty Good Housekeeping Cookbook printed in 1965 – the old ones are the best (as any woman married to an over-50 will testify!)

Ingredients for a 1 pint pudding Quantity Preparation
Dates 3oz Pick off any stalks, break up clumps and soak in rum overnight
Sultanas 6oz Pick off any stalks, break up clumps and soak in rum overnight
Raisins 3oz Pick off any stalks, break up clumps and soak in rum overnight
Mixed peel 2oz Wash the syrup off by running under the hot tap; drain well and dry in kitchen paper.
Glace cherries 3oz Chop the cherries into quarters and wash off the syrup by running under the hot tap; drain well and dry in kitchen paper.
Macademia nuts 2oz Chop the nuts coarsely
Hazelnuts 1oz
Almonds 2oz
Suet 3oz Loosen any clumps
Breadcrumbs 2oz Loosen any clumps
Flour 5oz
Spices 2 tsp Decide your mix on the day
Salt ½ tsp
Dark brown sugar 4oz Loosen any clumps
1 egg Lightly beaten
Milk to mix
Black treacle 1tsp
  1. Prepare the fruit and put into a small bowl
  2. Sieve the flour, salt and spices into a BIG bowl
  3. Take the prepared peel and cherries mix with a little of the flour in a small bowl
  4. Add the sugar, nuts, suet and breadcrumbs to the flour mixture
  5. Mix all the dry ingredients thoroughly
  6. Add the peel and cherries; mix thoroughly
  7. Add the fruit and stir thoroughly
  8. Now add the beaten egg and a generous slosh of milk; beat thoroughly
  9. Add the black treacle to give a good colour
  10. Check the consistency – you’re aiming for a ‘soft dropping’ consistency. Pick up a spoonful of the mix and let it drop off the spoon – it should literally fall softly (splat) into the bowl!
  11. Pour the mixture into a greased pudding basin and cover with greaseproof paper
  12. Boil or steam for 5 hours

Taking care of your pudding:

After boiling for the required time, remove the bowl from the saucepan and turn the pudding out onto a plate. Allow to cool.

Once it’s totally cool, wrap in generous layers of greaseproof paper then cover with foil and store in a cool dark place (not the fridge). Every week unwrap the pudding, spike with a skewer and pour over a dessertspoon of your base alcohol. Allow to soak in for 10 minutes then re-wrap the pudding.

Warming your pudding:

These instructions are for a 2 pint (1.13l pudding).

In you microwave:

Heat on full power for 4 minutes

Allow to stand for 4 minutes

Heat on LOW power for 10 minutes

Allow to stand for 3 minutes

2 Responses to “Odds blog: Shaken and Stirred”

  1. Kath Corbett said

    Sounds like a super day. We used to know a couple who ran a ‘stir-up sunday’ in their local pub, invited all their folky friends and had a fab music session that lasted most of the day. The pudding was mixed in a dustbin it was so big! In the middle of the pub would you believe? (A very understanding landlord). Everyone did something towards getting it mixed and filled their own pudding bowls to take home with them. So sad when they moved away.
    Yes please, I would love the jewel bread recipe.
    Kath (nb Herbie)

  2. indigodream said

    Thanks Kath – we were lacking music but I can’t imagine that any instrument would have survived the clouds of flour in the air 🙂

    I’ve had a couple of requests for the jewel bread recipe so I’ll find a way to pass it on; a post might be too cheeky on the copyright (though people have been sharing recipes for millenia so there’s a stronger precendent there I think).

    In the meantime, if you like bread making, the recipe came from a great book called “The world encyclopedia of bread and bread making’ by Christine Ingram and Jennie Shapter – it’s brilliant! Richard bought me my copy as a present – he’s not daft is he?

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