Retirement!

Alex and I retired from our part-time jobs in a local school last Friday. I am really going to miss working with young people!

The generous staff in the department sent us home with bunches of beautiful flowers and lots of gardening vouchers that will ensure we stay busy.

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Flowers 2

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We plan to fit in some more travelling over the next few years, while we are still fit enough to do so.

Don’t worry, I have no plans to give up my textile work just yet!

Christmas meal with friends

Here are some photographs of a meal I recently hosted for a few of my friends. I normally do a post connected with my Christmas meal or cakes but this year I will be away for the holiday season, so this is serving as a substitute.

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My Xmas bread with tomato

I regularly have a few friends round on a Friday evening for some wine a chat and perhaps a few nibbles. For Christmas I decided to do something a little fancier with a variety of tasty dishes.

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Adding some finishing touches

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Just a few dishes to go!

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Barbecue chicken with Chinese spice marinade

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Sliced steak with asparagus and roast pepper

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Deep-fried chicken balls with apricot, shallot and sesame seeds, served with mushroom and pepper

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Pan-fried lamb with plum stuffing

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The meal also featured smoked salmon with herb cheese bites and Shanghai dumplings

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Ready to start eating!

In addition to the food, wine and chatter, we also spent our time doing some felting.

Sorry about the image quality – just quick pics on a phone!

Christmas Boned Turkey

Merry Christmas everyone!
Normally at this time of year I post some pictures of our Christmas cake decorations but this year our main culinary effort has been to make a boned and stuffed turkey for the main course of Christmas dinner. This involved removing the bones from the body of the turkey and stuffing the cavity with a duck, pork and apricot filling (apologies to all vegetarians!)

 

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Turkey stuffed with duck, pork sausage meat and apricot stuffing

When I have boned a turkey in the past I have always removed all the bones. This time my son Gregor suggested that we should leave the leg and wing bones in place so that the end result still looked like a regular turkey.

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The stuffing ingredients were – onions, chopped apricots and celery, duck breast and pork sausage meat with minced pork shoulder added.

Gregor did all the hard work of boning, and we then stuffed the bird with the blended filling (testing out a teaspoon in the microwave beforehand to check the flavour), and then stitched everything in place.

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Greg busy filling the bird

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The finished turkey, ready for roasting

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The finished bird being sliced for serving

Our verdict – very nice indeed, though perhaps the duck meat was rather overcooked by the time the turkey was done.

One other dish we like at this time of year is paté – perfect for lunches and snacking, and pretty simple to make. Here are links to two paté recipes that we’ve been enjoying this year:

This one  is a chicken and pork recipe from the BBC – Chicken and pork paté with pistachios

This one is a paté de campangne recipe from Raymond Blanc – paté de campagne

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Chicken and pork paté on the left, paté de campagne on the right

 

 

A Discworld Cake

Creating a cake based on the late Terry Pratchett’s Discworld has been the latest creative effort from Alex and myself. Greg and Isla, our two children, decided to have a joint birthday party this year, with fancy dress themed on Discworld characters. We took on the challenge of providing a cake to match the theme.

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A turtle with four giant elephants on its back supporting the Discworld

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Sculpting the cake was the first step

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Next a head was added

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More cake was cut to make the forelimbs and to represent the elephant bodies

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Fondant icing was rolled out and used to cover the pieces

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A first check on how the parts will fit together

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Eyes were added and the shell pattern was marked out

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The turtle was painted using cake decorating colours

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Prototype elephant heads

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The completed cake

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The Discworld

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The cake packed up for transport to Southampton for the party

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The demolition of the cake begins

Icy Photos in Cornwall

Many parts of the UK have had a lot of snow recently. Here in Cornwall we have only had a light dusting but it was enough to get me out of the house with my camera. I ended up having a lot of fun trying to get shots of just one lump of ice. This had frozen inside a bowl in the garden and when I turned it out, it had all sorts of interesting curves and textures. I am not sure that the photographs do it justice but here are a few.

When water turns to solid!

When water turns to solid!

Not much snow here but a lovely crisp winter's day

Not much snow here but a lovely crisp winter’s day

This piece of ice formed in a bowl full of water in my garden

This piece of ice formed in a bowl full of water in my garden

Side view

Side view

Top view

Top view

Frozen ground

Frozen ground

Happy Christmas

I just wanted to wish everyone a very good festive season and a happy New Year.

I have been very busy cooking and baking recently and thought I would share some photos of our family Xmas cakes. This year I made one for the whole family, plus a small one each for my son and daughter to take home with them. Unfortunately, I had used up most of my icing before I got around to decorating these cakes so I had to come up with a decorating solution that used only what I had left. I think that they still look OK.

OOPS! Not enough icing to cover it

OOPS! Not enough icing to cover it

A cake for our son Gregor

A cake for our son Gregor

And one for our lovely daughter Isla!

And one for our lovely daughter Isla!

I hope to get back to making regular posts in the New Year!

Graduation!

Earlier this month, my family and I visited Oxford for Isla’s graduation ceremony. We were lucky to have good weather and it was an emotional day – it was lovely to see my daughter all grown up and stepping into the next stage of her life. I’ve included some of my favourite photos of the day below. Oxford Graduation Isla in her gown and hood, walking across Wadham College quad with Alex.Oxford GraduationLunch in Wadham College hall, Isla and Greg kept each other amused!Oxford Graduation The Graduation Ceremony at the Sheldonian Theatre. Oxford Graduation The family all together after the ceremony (my son in formal wear…)Oxford Graduation Oxford GraduationOxford Graduation