Milly-Molly-Mandy: Mustard-and-Cress

Books:
Milly-Molly-Mandy Stories by Joyce Lankester Brisley
1990, Puffin
Citrus and Spice: A Year of Flavour by Sybil Kapoor
2008, Simon & Schuster
cressWe have been having a lot of April showers lately, which will hopefully lead to a very verdant Spring.  I looked to my stack of cookbooks for some inspiration.  Citrus and Spice is a very fun cookbook which has a focus flavor for each month.  April’s is “verdant” and the descriptive introduction mentions shoots, herbs and leaves, including the “flavour of crushed watercress.”


C&S1
You can buy watercress and other cress, but it’s more fun to grow your own.  There are many different kinds, but I wanted to grow the same kind as Milly-Molly-Mandy.
MMM1I have this very cute pink and white striped copy of the Milly-Molly-Mandy Stories.  The second story in the book is entitled “Milly-Molly-Mandy Spends a Penny”.  In this story Milly-Molly-Mandy finds a penny in the pocket of an old coat.
MMM3

She asks her family what she should do with it, and they all give different advice:  put it in the bank, buy a skein of rainbow wool and learn to knit, buy some seeds and grow mustard-and-cress, buy a little patty-pan and make a cake in it, save it up until she has three and buy a baby duckling, and get some sweets.
MMM2cresssnipb
In the end, Milly-Molly-Mandy buys some mustard-and-cress seeds, which she plants.  At last they grow into a clump of “fresh green mustard-and-cress, that made you quite long for  some bread-and-butter to eat it with.” Milly-Molly-Mandy sells the cress to her neighbor for twopence, and then uses one penny to buy some rainbow wool.  She asks her grandmother to teach her to knit a kettle-holder.  She sells the kettle-holder to her mother for one penny, uses the penny to buy a shiny tin patty-pan, and bakes a little cake.  That day, a lady cyclist stops by Milly-Molly-Mandy’s cottage and asks for a glass of milk, and the patty-cake looks so good that she asks if she might have that too.  Milly-Molly-Mandy gets a penny of what the lady pays for the milk and cake.  The story goes on in this way, and Milly-Molly-Mandy manages to do everything her family suggests, and in the end puts the last penny in the bank to save up for a duckling.
mmm4This is very cute story for all ages which also has a good message about the good use of money.  Milly-Molly-Mandy’s patience and sensible use of her penny enables her to get all the things that she wanted.  You probably can’t buy most of the things she buys for a penny anymore.  But you can still get mustard and cress seeds for cheap.  I did buy some cress at first, but I couldn’t find mustard-and-cress, so I decided to grow my own.


Just a tiny sprinkle of seeds on damp paper towel or soil will grow a nice bunch of mustard-and-cress in only a few days.


To start simple with mustard-and-cress, I took Milly-Molly-Mandy’s suggestion to try it with bread-and-butter.  If you don’t have cress, you can always add whole grain mustard to mimic the flavor.
cresssnipa
Mustard-and-Cress on Bread-and-Butter

Ingredients
1 slice of good bread
1 Tbsp good salted butter
1 bunch fresh growing mustard and cress
OR cress and 1 tsp whole grain mustard

Method
You don’t need a recipe for bread and butter!  Add the mustard and cress to taste.  This needs to be served right away as the cress will wilt.
m&cam&cb
You probably can’t sell your cress for twopence, but you can grow it, snip it and grow some more!

 

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Evening in a Sugar Orchard: Maple Ganache

Book:
A Time to Keep by Tasha Tudor
1977, Rand McNally & Company.
Poem:
Evening in a Sugar Orchard by Robert Frost.

mar1Goodbye March!  Thankfully, it’s going out like a lamb, as it should, since it came in like a lion.
maplesyrup
March is sugaring season, when thawing days and freezing nights make the sap run in the trees.  Here is a beautiful poem about it by Robert Frost:
branchesThis poem can be read by anyone, but older children could really get into what Frost is doing with his use of language, rhyme, imagery, and his various references.  It’s also a fun poem to memorize and recite.  I particularly love the image of the sparks making constellations in the branches.  You could even go outside on a clear night and try to see  Leo, Orion, and the Pleiades.
TTKmar1Maple syrup is a wonderful and versatile sweetener which can be used in so many ways. In Tasha Tudor’s A Time to Keep, she shows what a big event sugaring used to be, with everyone pitching in to help, and then having a big open air feast at the end.  Many of you may not be able to  go sugaring, but if you can, you should!  I had to get mine from a bottle, but it was still great.  I used it to make a chocolate ganache.
tTKmar2ganache1
Maple Ganache

Ingredients
Dark chocolate
Cream
Maple syrup
Note: To make a thick ganache, chocolate and cream should be in a 1:1 ratio or equal parts. However, I substituted a quarter of the cream with maple syrup. To make enough to frost a small cake, I used two 180g (about 6 oz) bars of chocolate, melted, 270g (about 9 oz) cream, and 90g (about 3 oz) maple syrup.

Method
Melt the chocolate.  You can use the microwave, or you can rig up a double boiler by putting a metal or Pyrex bowl into a pan of water and bringing the water to a simmer, then putting the chocolate in the bowl, stirring occasionally until it is melted.  Remove from heat and slowly add cream and syrup, stirring until it is a glossy, even mixture.  Refrigerate for at least several hours, until set.  After this you can roll it into truffles, or eat it with a spoon.  Or refrigerate it only till cool, and frost a cake.
ganache2ganache3cake
Bring your cake to a sugaring-off party (and have sugar on snow for a treat)!
TTKMar3

Happy Spring!
Happy Spring!


The Willow Flute: Beef Daube and Butter Tea

Book:
The Willow Flute: a North Country Tale written and illustrated by D. William Johnson
1975,  Little, Brown and Company.

Goodbye Winter!  Many flowers are out now: snowdrops, crocuses, and daffodils.  The mornings and evenings are lighter.  Now when I have to get up before 6 am there is a slight brightness to the sky, which makes it a lot easier to drag myself out of bed!

crocusesHowever, it is still very, very cold — colder than it was in December (we’ve had a very weird Winter here).  So here is a book for cold weather that looks forward to Spring.

wf1The Willow Flute tells the story of Lewis Shrew, who lives in a great forest.  One March evening, Lewis puts on his “boots and his old overcoat, his muffler and his mittens” to go out into “the white woods” to gather twigs for firewood.

When he goes out into the woods and sniffs the air, the woods seem different, even though they are still covered in ice and snow.  But “a hint of springtime swirled in the wind.”  After gathering twigs, Lewis sits down to rest and falls asleep.  When he wakes he is disoriented by the night and cold, and he longs for his house and a cheery fire.

wf3Lost and scared to go out on the surface because of owls, he starts to tunnel under the snow.  His clothes are soon torn and he loses his muffler.

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Eventually he finds shelter in an abandoned cabin.  There he finds a willow flute and plays it.

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As he plays, the world begins to warm and thaw.  Rain falls and melts the snow, and Lewis can now see his own house.  It’s a very interesting moment when Lewis begins to play the flute, as the black and white illustrations begin to have color, starting with himself:

wf7 wf8
This is a strange little book.  The writing is simple and straightforward:
“He paused to breathe the good air.  The sun sparkled through the trees and caught on the wonderful flute; a robin landed in a pine tree and green things were thinking of growing.”

But the illustrations are idiosyncratic and striking, done in a very bold and graphic style in black & white, with the interesting choice to bring color in gradually with the arrival of Spring.  Older children could explore these stylistic choices in art, with the creative use of hatching and crosshatching, detail and negative space, and other techniques to create an interesting image with just pen and ink.

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Another interesting idea would be to explore the story itself, as the author makes the interesting choice to not really explain many things — whose cabin is it?  How does the magic flute work?  What is the meaning of the cryptic sign (“The bird, whistle please”) which is on the cabin door?  Who put it there?  Why?  These could all be good prompts for creative writing.

This is a very interesting book in and of itself, and suitable for all ages.  I myself have certainly had the experience of going out of doors in late Winter and finding that something is subtly different — a hint of Springtime is in the air.  I have felt that this year already, but right now it is cold!  It may well be where you are too.  So here are some cold weather recipes.

Maybe my number one comfort food is beef stew.  Daube is a French version, which is cheap, healthy and super comforting.  I’ve added ox cheek, which is full of collagen to make it extra unctuous and amazing.

daube2

Beef Daube

Ingredients
5 garlic cloves, chopped, or 2 Tbsp garlic paste
1/2 lb stewing beef
1 ox cheek (optional, you can replace it with more steak or chuck, but it’s well worth it if you’ve got it!)
1 cup carrots, chopped
2 cups onions, chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 Tbsp thyme
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 cup tomato paste
1 1/2 cup red wine

Method
Chuck all the ingredients into a large Dutch oven or casserole dish with a lid.  You can brown the meat and onions first, but I never bother, because who has the time?  Cover and put in the oven at about 300 degrees F (that’s about 150 C).  Bake for 2 1/2 to 2 hours (but check on it now and again to make sure the liquid isn’t drying out, and top up with water if it is).  Once the meat is fork-tender, it is done!  Serve on its own, or with egg noodles (I had mine with vareniki).

daube1
Since we could probably do with a hot drink, too, here is a recipe for Butter Tea!  Butter tea (or po cha) is common in Tibet and neighboring countries, and is a good alternative for people who want to try Bulletproof-type coffee but don’t like coffee!  It is very rich and nourishing.

buttertea1

Butter Tea

Ingredients
2 cups water
2 black teabags, or loose equivalent (I used chai)
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp butter (yak butter is traditional, but if, like me, you haven’t got it, use some good yellow grass-fed butter)
1/2 cup cream or whole milk
1 tsp honey (optional)
buttertea2
Method
Boil the water and then steep the tea.  Steep for at least  3 minutes so it’s nice and strong.  Add the cream, salt, and butter.  If you have a churn or a blender you can use those, or shake in a jar.  But be careful — hot liquids can expand and leak!  Personally, I use a tiny whisk that I can roll between my hands — almost as quick as an electric mixer and I don’t have to plug it in!  I have found that the butter emulsifies wonderfully.  Drink while nice and hot!  Note: it may be an acquired taste for those not used to it.  You can add a teaspoon of honey, which changes it from salty to salty/sweet.  Not necessarily authentic, but this recipe isn’t very authentic to begin with!

buttertea3

Drink by your cheery fire, and think of Spring!

 

Mr. Putter & Tabby and Henry & Mudge: Chicken Soup

Books: 
Mr. Putter & Tabby Catch the Cold  by Cynthia Rylant; illustrated by Arthur Howard
2002, Harcourt, Inc.
Henry and Mudge get the Cold Shivers by Cynthia Rylant; illustrated by Suçie Stevenson
1989, The Trumpet Club

We're back!
We’re back!

Well, here we are again!  I’m very sorry for the big gap in posts.  I was so busy and tired that I just couldn’t keep up.  However, I’ve since changed jobs and have much more time and energy.  And I have a lot to catch up on!
Being so tired and stressed took a big toll on me, and I spent a long time being pretty sick.  But this time of year many of us suffer from that one cold that goes around and gets everyone (especially if you have/work with kids).  So I thought we’d start with a couple of books by Cynthia Rylant for sick days.
Mr. Putter & Tabby Catch the Cold is part of the Mr. Putter & Tabby series.  Mr Putter is an older gentleman who lives with his cat, Tabby.  It would be suitable for kids of any age, but it would be good for those who are just starting to read chapter books, as it has four short, easy chapters and fairly simple text.
mptccIt takes place during Winter.  Mr Putter and Tabby love the snow and they love being cozy.  They really know what to do on a snowy day: make tea and muffins, light the fire and watch the snow fall.  Perfect!
mptcc2But then Mr Putter catches a cold by going out to get the newspaper funnies without a hat.
mptcc3When Mr Putter was a child, colds were fun.  His mother brought him soup and tea and adventure books.  But the plight of a grownup with a cold is different.  You have nobody to look after you (and usually you have to take a lot of cold medicine and go to work…yuck).  You can’t lie in bed with toys, soup, tea, and The Call of the Wild.
The rest of the story is about how Mr Putter’s neighbor, Mrs Teaberry, and her dog Zeke, help Mr Putter to get his soup, tea, and adventure book.  Zeke brings Mr Putter a Thermos of chicken soup, and another with peppermint tea and honey sticks.


Mr Putter ends up having a great day, and goes to sleep “full of soup and tea and adventure”.
This book is a good read for a wintry day.  The illustrations are fluid and charming.  Sadly, we have not got a single flake of snow here this year, and I enjoyed looking at the pictures of the snow.  If you are lucky enough to have snow, and have some time off, then light the fire, make some soup, muffins, and tea, get cozy, and watch the flakes fall.  Still, even if we can’t spend the day in bed, minty tea and adventure books are something almost any of us can enjoy, at home or even during lunch at work.
mptcc5Another book by the same author on a similar theme is Henry and Mudge get the Cold Shivers: The Seventh Book of Their Adventures.  Instead of a man and his cat, this series is about a boy and his dog.  It has three short chapters and is similar in style and tone.
hmcsHenry’s big dog Mudge likes it when Henry has a sick day and gets to stay home in bed.  Nobody thinks Mudge can get sick, but one day he does, and he has to go to the vet.  Henry is worried about Mudge, and the pages where he is sitting in the waiting room are actually quite sad.


It turns out that Mudge just has a cold, and the previous description of Henry’s sick days (Popsicles, comic books, and crackers) are contrasted with Mudge’s (ice cubes, a rubber hamburger, and crackers).  Of course Mudge gets well and there is a happy ending.
hmcs4This is a fun book which actually does address how scared kids can be when their pet is ill.  Having read this to a bunch of six year olds, they really liked it, particularly Mudge himself.  The only food in the book is the Popsicles and crackers.  I never had Popsicles when sick as a child, but I did have crackers in my soup.  So here is my family’s recipe for classic chicken soup.
chickensoup1
Chicken Soup

Ingredients
1 chicken (preferably free-range or pastured), giblets removed
2 stalks celery
3 carrots
Method
Put a big pot of water on the stove on high heat.  You could cut up the chicken here, but I never bother.  A 3 lb/1kg-ish chicken fits right in my big pot.  The water does not need to fill the pot, it just needs to cover the chicken.   Bring to boil and then reduce heat to simmer. As the chicken simmers, ‘scum’ will rise to the top. Get a big spoon and skim it off.  This is mostly cosmetic, so I often don’t bother with this either.  If you want a clear broth, you can always strain it later.  Cut up carrots and celery into vaguely 1 inch pieces and add them to the pot.  Cook, simmering, for about 1 to 2 hours, covered, or mostly covered. When the soup is done cooking, take the chicken out of the soup, cool chicken on a plate, then separate chicken meat from bones and skin. Put meat back into soup. Season to taste with salt.  You can re-use the chicken bones by putting them in a crockpot with more water to make bone broth.
This soup should be a mild broth.  It’s full of goodness and vitamins and will definitely make you feel better!  You could add cooked rice or noodles, or have it with crackers.

Of course, if you are sick, and like Mr Putter have nobody to cook for you, soup from scratch might be too much work:

Lazy Chicken Soup
Method
Prepare chicken and vegetables as above, put them in a crockpot with a little water, set to low, and go back to it in eight hours!  Dilute the broth with water and serve as above.

Extra Lazy Chicken Soup
Method
Use bought chicken broth and chicken.  Whatever, you’re not feeling well!

chickensoup

Put on your flannel pajamas, crawl into bed with some comic books, and get some rest!

Squashed Part 1: Spiced Maple Apple Cider

Books:
Squashed by Joan Bauer
1996, Orion Children’s Books
A Time to Keep by Tasha Tudor
1977, Rand McNally & Company

autumnleavesHappy Autumn!   I’m sorry it’s been such a long time since my last post!  I recently got a new job which is keeping me terribly busy and tired.  Too tired to really enjoy many of the delights of my favorite time of year.  But just because I can’t do everything I want to this Fall, it doesn’t mean I can’t do the most important things.

apple tree 2squashedUndoubtably my most reread book of all time is Squashed by Joan Bauer.  I read it every October.   This is obviously a book for somewhat older children and teens.  It deals with a lot of the issues of young adulthood, but in a very lighthearted and humorous way.  The protagonist is Ellie Morgan, a 16-year-old girl in a small town in Iowa, whose dream is to grow a giant pumpkin big enough to win first prize at her local fair.  Along the way she has to deal with a father who doesn’t understand her ambition, her struggle with her weight, the death of her mother, pumpkin thieves, and competition with her rival giant pumpkin grower, the “deeply despicable” Cyril Pool.  It’s nice to have a well-written female protagonist with such a specific and unusual passion as pumpkin growing.

sqashed2

The novel begins in August, with forty-six days to go until the annual Rock River Pumpkin Weigh-In and Harvest Fair.  I’m not sure how accurate the descriptions of giant pumpkin growing are (do people really feed their squash buttermilk?), but the writing is incredibly engaging and funny, particularly when Ellie is talking about her pumpkin, Max:

Noble Max, whose ancestors sustained the Pilgrims through their first winter in America.
That first winter must have been a bust, and you can bet the pumpkins weren’t appreciated right off.  Vegetables never are.  The Pilgrim children were probably crabbing by December (‘Oh no, pumpkin again!’), never realizing a pumpkin had all those disease-fighting nutrients and was a key dietary staple since it was too big to be lugged off the settlement by wild, rabid bears.  It just goes to show you that even ancient people couldn’t appreciate something right under their noses, which is probably why the Pilgrims went extinct.  There’s a lesson here for all of us, especially my father.
(p.15)

Ellie is also a great cook, and there are lots of descriptions of food to choose from: Irish soda bread slathered in plum preserves, butter pecan seven-layer cake, baking powder cheese biscuits, split pea soup with sausage, and sautéed cinnamon apples.

However, since this last weekend was our local Apple Day,  I’ve got a big thermos full of fresh apple cider to use up: the ultimate October treat.  Cider is always a sensitive subject for me, since here in the UK you cannot find cider in the American sense.  “Cider” is alcoholic cider.  They have imported the Pumpkin Spice Latte, but not the Caramel Apple Spice…and I don’t like coffee!  Misery!

ciderThe good news is that if you can get yourself to an Apple Day there will no doubt be someone with an apple press squeezing out delicious, unpasteurized, unfiltered apple cider.  I usually wait a day for it to ferment just a little, and then it’s time to enjoy it — hot, cold, mulled.

apple day

spices
Spiced Maple Apple Cider

Ingredients
Spices to taste: cloves, nutmeg, allspice, star anise, ginger, cardamom
Cinnamon stick
1/2 cup extra-thick or whipped cream (optional)
2 pints fresh apple cider (or cloudy apple juice if you can’t find it)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup maple syrup

Method
Pour the syrup into a medium hot pan with a dash of water.  Add the vanilla.  If your spices are whole, crush them slightly with a pestle or something heavy.  You can add them to the pan as they are, or put them in a tea ball and then add.  Finally, pour in the cider and bring to a simmer.  Strain into a jar.  If your spices are in a tea ball you can continue to steep them.  When cool enough to drink, top with whipped cream if desired.

DSCF2051Enjoy hot in the most cozy fashion you can manage! 
shopping apples
This October, see if you can find an Apple Day, visit an orchard or a PYO farm, or go scrumping for wild apples!

A Time to Keep‘s October section shows how little the wholesome activity of cider-making has changed:

ttkmaking cider

apple treeTo add to the coziness, my husband made a split pea soup.  Not with sausage, like Ellie’s, but still warming and hearty.  He used this recipe, from a book we got last Christmas:

ttkapplebobbing
Looking forward to Hallowe’en! Who has a costume picked out?

 

Best of British Summer 2015

Poem:
The Owl and the Pussycat by Edward Lear

One thing that we do a couple of times a year is what we call Best of British.  This started one day years ago when we were in a pub.  We saw that they were having a little food festival called Best of British.  But it was rather expensive.  I said, “I could make us all that for a lot less!”  So I did, and we’ve been doing it ever since.  Anyone could do it with their local cuisine, and it’s a lot of fun if you like to cook.  Here is this Summer’s menu.

menus

bob2015starterAs you can see the first one is quince-themed, and as we’ve been talking about “The Owl and the Pussycat”, we read that poem at dinner (sorry about the ham, Pig Robinson).  It’s one of the more accessible Lear poems, and has a lot of fun wordplay and evocative imagery.  It’s also very easy to memorize.

Here is a recipe for the piccalilli, which is a nice old-fashioned pickle.

Easy Piccalilli

Ingredients
1/2 Tbsp vinegar
3 Tbsp mustard powder
1 Tbsp whole grain mustard
1/2 Tbsp sugar
3 tsp garlic paste
1/3 of a zucchini (courgette), diced
1 onion, diced
1 sweet pepper, diced,
1 carrot, diced
1 cup broccoli & cauliflower, broken into florets

Method
Put the mustard, vinegar, garlic and sugar in a pan and simmer .  Add the vegetables and allow to soften only slightly.  Then take off the heat and allow to cool, stirring now and then. Store in a jar in the fridge.

Eat with quince and dance by the light of the moon!

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From The Tale of Pig Robinson

 

 

 

The Tale of Pig Robinson: Clotted Cream Truffles

Book:
The Tale of Little Pig Robinson by Beatrix Potter
1987, F. Warne, New York NY, USA.

beach

Goodbye Summer!

We didn’t have a very hot August, which is a shame, because I find it is so much more fun to look forward to Autumn when there is a nice transition between heat and crispness.  But since it’s still reasonably warm, I thought we could fit in one more summery read.

The Tale of Little Pig Robinson is quite unusual for a Beatrix Potter book. It is quite long (123 pages), and a chapter book.  The setting is based upon her own seaside holiday in a little harbour town.  The structure is also unusual.  The story begins with a cat named Susan who goes down to the harbour to get herrings.  We learn her history, and the history of Stumpy the dog.  Susan sees a pig on the deck of a ship and wonders how he came  to be there, but the narrative follows her home.  The next passage is very evocative:

Sam ate his supper and smoked a pipe by the fire; and then he went to bed. But Susan sat a long time by the fire, considering. She considered many things—fish, and ducks, and Percy with a lame foot, and dogs that eat mutton chops, and the yellow cat on the ship, and the pig. Susan thought it strange to see a pig upon a ship called the “Pound of Candles.” The mice peeped out under the cupboard door. The cinders fell together on the hearth. Susan purred gently in her sleep and dreamed of fish and pigs. She could not understand that pig on board a ship. But I know all about him!  (p.25)
tidepoolThe narrator then explains that this story is a prequel to “The Owl & the Pussycat” by Edward Lear, which explains how the pig that they meet at the end of the poem came to be there:When that pig was little he lived in Devonshire, with his aunts, Miss Dorcas and Miss Porcas, at a farm called Piggery Porcombe. Their cosy thatched cottage was in an orchard at the top of a steep red Devonshire lane.”(p.26)  The next section of the story is a very long and detailed description of journey which the pig, whose name is Robinson, makes to market at Stymouth, and his misadventures trying to run errands there.   The details are charming in a historical context and useful to get a feel for another place and time period, however, it is so long and dense that I think it would make it a trying read for a young child…it was a little trying for me.  It might be better for 8 and up if they had an adult to help contextualize and learn about the historical vocabulary with them.

Another thing to keep in mind with Pig Robinson is that there are a few scenes and themes that could be upsetting to a sensitive child.  The text baldly states of Robinson’s aunts that their end was bacon.  The odd situation of anthropomorphic animals living independently amongst humans and yet still being eaten is a feature of many Potter books, but it is rarely so directly addressed.  Also, Robinson’s journey though town is somewhat scary, with someone yelling “Come in, fat pig!” from a pub, and him seeing a ham in a window.

The other sensitive aspect is that this is basically the story of a child being kidnapped.  Robinson’s aunts warn him to stay away from “ships’ cooks, and pantechnicons, and sausages, and shoes, and ships, and sealing-wax” (p.33) but in town Robinson is offered snuff by a strange sailor.  Apparently Robinson’s one fault was that he could not say no, so instead of saying ‘no thank you’ and going straight away, he ends up being lured onto the ship by the sailor (who, as it transpires, is a ship’s cook!), and which point it sails off.  There is a rather sinister scene of various people who might have recognised Robinson and saved him being distracted by other things and not noticing.  On the other hand, it would be a good opportunity to have a discussion about safety, the importance of being able to say no, and what to do when we first start going places on our own.

pr3

However, the story is not so dark that Robinson is mistreated on the ship, thankfully.  He is treated well and fed a lot (we can guess where this is going, but Robinson doesn’t, even though the ship’s cat tries to warn him). The cat itself is the one from “The Owl and the Pussycat”, who is upset on being separated from the owl.

Eventually Robinson overhears that he is meant for the Captain’s birthday dinner — as the main course!  At this point the cat helps him to escape in a boat.  It is a shame that the adventure only really gets going right before the end, but this section is quite exciting and also well-written, as the author describes the tropical seas with their phosphorescence, and the moon like a silver plate.

When Robinson gets to the island, he finds a rather fantastical scene.

pr4

Acid drops and sweets grew upon the trees. Yams, which are a sort of sweet potato, abounded ready cooked. The bread-fruit tree grew iced cakes and muffins, ready baked; so no pig need sigh for porridge. Overhead towered the Bong tree. (p.120)

truffs3

According to the narrator the island is very like the one in Robinson Crusoe, only without its drawbacks.  The Owl and the Pussycat visit it (for their wedding, as described in the original poem) and later Robinson is visited by some dogs from Stymouth who find him disinclined to return.  So there is a happy ending.

buoy

As you can see this is a pretty strange book.  You can check it out here, if you’d like to see for yourself.  However I would still recommend a look, particularly for older children who might enjoy searching for the various references to other works.  There are a couple of references to the nursery rhyme about this little piggy (one goes to market, two stay home…although there is no reference to roast beef), and Robinson himself goes “Wee! Wee! Wee!” all the time.  Obviously it is a prequel to “The Owl and the Pussycat” which also ties in Robinson Crusoe (Robinson refers to himself as “Pig Robinson Crusoe” at one point, so possibly Robinson Crusoe the book already exists in this universe).  Finally, there are a couple of mentions of shoes, ships, sealing wax, etc., in what must be a reference to “The Walrus and the Carpenter.”  It’s amusing to think of this story as some kind of unified theory of pigs/desert islands/ships.

Pig Robinson was quite a greedy pig, and he really liked sweets, so I thought I would make truffles (although chocolate truffles probably are not good for pigs).  I found this recipe, and adapted it a little to make it more fantastical.  It suits the playful nature of the story.

ganache1
Clotted Cream Truffles

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups clotted cream
1 1/3 cup dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), crushed into smallish pieces
1/2 cup shredded (desiccated)  coconut

ganache

Method
Melt the chocolate slowly in a bain marie or microwave.  I put it in a Pyrex bowl and put the bowl in a pan of simmering water.  Stir the clotted cream into the chocolate and chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours.  Then take out tablespoonfuls of the ganache and roll into balls, then roll them in the coconut.  You could use cocoa powder, powdered (icing) sugar or any other topping of choice instead.  I also put on some pink edible glitter powder to evoke the colourful  setting of Robinson’s island.  Chill again for another 3 hours.
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Enjoy with the last of the warm weather!

 

 

1 is One: Lemon Curd

Book:
1 is One by Tasha Tudor
1986, Aladdin Books, New York.
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Last Friday (August 28th) would have been Tasha Tudor’s 100th birthday, so I thought we’d have a cream tea on the weekend and read some of her books.
Tasha and her family were very much into having iced tea in the garden.

 


But we need some reading material.  1 is One is a little rhyming counting book.  It would be great for very young children, and useful for learning how to count 1 -20.


Adults and children alike can appreciate the beautiful and detailed illustrations, in both color and black and white.  The subjects of the pictures are simple and relatable.
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For our Tasha Tudor tea, we had iced tea, saffron buns, clotted cream and lemon curd.  I made a fancied-up version of iced tea to go with the occasion.
icedteaingredients
Iced Tea

Ingredients
2 fruity black teabags or loose tea in a tea ball
1 lemon
2 Tbsp honey or sweetener of choice
4 fresh mint leaves

Method
Add hot water to teabags.  Let steep for 5 minutes, then add sweetener to taste (you could use sugar, honey, or stevia.).  Cut the lemon into slices, and add the slices and a squeeze of lemon juice, as well as the mint leaves. Pour into a large jug, adding cold water to fill, and leave in the fridge for at least 4 hours.

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For the lemon curd I used this recipe, but roughly halved it.  I’m the only one in my house who eats dairy so it often makes sense not to make too much!

Lemon Curd

Ingredients
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2.5 Tblsp lemon juice
2 Tblsp butter
⅓ cup sugar
1 tsp lemon zest

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Method
Whisk together all the ingredients in a metal or glass bowl.  Place the bowl over the top of a pot or pan of water and bring to a simmer, whisking frequently to prevent curdling.  It may take about ten minutes.  Eventually the mixture will thicken enough to coat the back of a spoon. Add the butter and whisk well.  Transfer to a clean jar and store in the fridge.

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Assemble your tea and eat in the garden (under a crab apple tree if you have one).  Hopefully it will be a delectable elevenish party!

Also read: A Time to Keep.
Also read: A Time to Keep.

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Two in a Tent: Clotted Cream

Book:
Two in a Tent by Molly Brett
1969, The Medici Society Ltd., London.

book & picnic
I’ve been away for a while, partly due to busyness, but also because we went on holiday!  We rented a car and drove down to North Devon, where we stayed in a tent.  When it came to what book to bring, Enid Blyton was a little too obvious, so I brought along Two in a Tent.

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Two in a Tent in a tent!

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Two in a Tent  would be suitable for children of all ages.  It tells the story of Susan, who goes to visit her cousin David in the country.  They are allowed to sleep in a tent in the orchard by his house, they encounter lots of animals (which Susan invariably either misidentifies or is afraid of), and they even have an adventure when the orchard floods.

My copy evidently once belonged to a small child with an orange crayon.
My copy evidently once belonged to a small child with an orange crayon.

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Susan and David learn a lot about the animals they encounter.  The text includes a lot of information, so that it could be very useful in a unit about animals, biology, ecosystems, the countryside, etc.  It was published in 1969, so some of the information is not correct (don’t give hedgehogs milk!  And don’t take in baby deer!), but much of it is still factual, and the illustrations are extremely accurate.  Molly Brett’s artwork manages to be sweet, whimsical and yet almost scientific.  On the back cover of my edition, there is a guide to some of the birds and flowers in the book, if you have not identified them already.

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We two in a tent did some of the things David and Susan did (although we spent most of our time at the beach).  We didn’t make our own fire, but we did cook sausages.

We didn’t go on a “midnight march” (although we meant to), and I for one really enjoyed the “hot baths and supper” we had when we came home!

In Devon I was excited to buy copious amounts of clotted cream, which we had with yeast buns and jam.

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beach picnic2clotted creamOnce home, I was looking forward to using it in various ways.  However, I’m not sure how easy it is to find clotted cream outside the UK.  You could use extra thick double cream instead,  or shake double cream in jar for a couple of minutes until it thickens up, but it wouldn’t be exactly the same, so I thought I would put up a recipe for those of you who can’t get ahold of it.  Clotted cream is traditionally made by heating cream on very  low heat for a long time.  I looked around and found this recipe, which uses a slow cooker.  Ingenious!  I cut down on the amount of cream, because I already have two big tubs of clotted cream in the fridge!

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Slow Cooker Clotted Cream

Ingredients
3 cups heavy or double cream

Method
Pour the cream into the slow cooker and leave on low or warm for 8 – 10 hours.  It is a tricky business because you do not want the cream to go above 180 degrees F (82 degrees C).  My slow cooker tends to be quite hot, so I left it on warm.  Then, transfer the whole thing to the fridge (you don’t want to disturb the crust on top of the cream!) for at least 4 hours.  When it is chilled, scoop off the top layer, which should be thick, not runny.  I found that there was still some runny cream, but it tasted fine, so I scooped it all into a dish and then added the crust part of the cream back on top.

 

Done!
Done!

After a few more hours of chilling, the cream should all set up to proper thickness.

Enjoy in a traditional cream tea with scones and jam, or eat with a spoon (that’s what I did!).

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Lemon curd recipe to follow another day!

 

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Jelly from Indicknowle farm in Devon

Even if you don’t have an orchard, if you have a bit of garden, sleeping out in the tent is a fun activity for kids and adults.  You could make a fire and cook some sausages, and have a “midnight march”.  And if you can’t get to the beach, you could always set up a paddling pool!

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In the Forest: Raspberry Buckle

Book:
In the Forest by Marie Hall Ets
1967, the Viking Press, New York.

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I haven’t had time to walk in the forest lately, but our garden is looking pretty jungly at the moment.  You can imagine there might be some lions or bears in here.


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In the Forest is a cute little vintage book which would be suitable for children of all ages.
intheforest
intheforest1 It tells the story of a child who goes for a walk in the forest, and along the way he encounters many animals, including kangaroos, a lion and some bears.  He isn’t afraid, however, and they don’t seem very fierce. They all decide to join him and parade through the forest.
intheforest2 They stop for a picnic of peanuts, jam, ice cream and cake, and then they play games (Drop-the-Handkerchief, London-Bridge-is-Falling-Down, Hide-and-Seek).  Eventually the boy’s father finds him and takes him home, but he knows he will come back and play with the animals again.
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It is a very sweet little story with charmingly simple illustrations.  It could work very well for teaching English because there is a lot of repetition and text which is suitable for performing actions (the lion combing his hair, the parade, the games, etc.).

For a simple story I thought I would make a simple little cake.  The one in the picture appears to be some kind of bundt cake, but I thought one that took advantage of seasonal fruit might be nice.  A buckle is an old-fashioned cake/pudding which often has a streusel topping, but I just used a Victoria sponge mix.
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Raspberry Buckle

Ingredients
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup self-raising flour
1/2 cup butter
1 Tbsp honey
1 small punnet of raspberries
Ice cream or cream to serve.

Method
Preheat the oven to 350F/180C.  Line an 8 inch cake tin with greaseproof paper.  Combine all the ingredients (except the raspberries) with a wooden spoon or mixer until you have a soft batter.  Do not overmix.  Arrange half the raspberries on the bottom of the cake tin, and pour the batter over the top.  Then press the rest of the berries into the top of the batter, and drizzle a spoonful of honey over them.  Bake for 20 – 30 minutes until golden.  Turn out when cool. To make the cake more portable for picnics in the forest, you could punch out individual mini cakes with round cookie cutters and wrap them in wax paper and string.  They can be enjoyed hot or cold with ice cream, although I had mine with cream.
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Take on a walk in the forest and play hide and seek!

jams
Don’t forget the peanuts and jam for the bears!