What could be more quintessentially English than tea and cake? What could be more quintessentially English than fundraising with tea and cake?
Hire the village hall. Get the Good Ladies of the Parish to closet themselves in their kitchens, dig out their favourite recipes, don their aprons and get stuck into a couple of hours combining butter, flour, sugar and eggs with favoured additions such as chocolate (got to have a chocolate cake), lemon (got to have lemon drizzle cake), coffee, walnuts (got to have a coffee and walnut cake), dried fruit (it would probably be a criminal offence not to offer scones), and any other pièce de résistance that the accomplished home baker can offer.
And on the day itself, friends, family, passers-by, readers of the Parish magazine will all be tempted to drop in and cheerfully while away a half hour or so with a slice or two of cake, or even the makings of a light lunch, all in pleasant, light-hearted company. All talk of calories and healthy options is banned. This is waistline expansion in a very good cause.
On Saturday, we gallantly took ourselves over to Fewston Village Hall to support our sporty friends Barbara and Tim. The cause? Almscliffe Tennis and Bowling Club. Now what could be more English than bowls?
My recent blog posts have been a bit of a guide book. Perhaps I should be working for Lonely Planet.
Let’s get back to basics. Food.
We’ve been beginning the day as the Spanish do. In a coffee shop. Emily’s boyfriend wouldn’t consider eating breakfast at home, and neither do we. A huge glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. Maybe a roll, with jamon, or cheese, or sobrasada (a Mallorcan spreading sausage) or simply olive oil, then lightly toasted. Coffee, obviously.
It’s hard to resist tapas later on. Order a drink, and you’ll be served with a tapa too. Olives maybe, or patatasbravas. You may get a choice. Maybe not. It’s easy to knock up enough food for a light meal by ordering another drink.
We’ve been struck by the difference between the food in Granada and that in Córdoba. Granada celebrates making delicious treats out of very little: patatasalopobre – potatoes with onions and peppers. Migas – fried stale breadcrumbs with peppers, onion, garlic and fatty bacon. Both simple. Both good.
Both cities celebrate the pig and lamb in many forms: lots of piggy sausage dishes. Lots of chick peas too.
Córdoba pushes you in the direction of berenjenas – aubergine slices deep fried in batter and drizzled in honey. Every restaurant here has an oxtail dish, and is proud to tell you that the city is a foodie capital.
Berenjenas con miel.
Every shopping street has a selection of independent greengrocers. Just as well. After all that stomach-lining food, a piece or two of fruit is more than welcome.
One of the joys of being in Valencia was walking down streets and through parks lined with orange trees. It’s orange season right now, so they were looking at their best. They’re bitter Seville oranges of course, the ones we use for marmalade. Juicy sweet ones would probably be too much of a temptation for passers-by.
Last Sunday though, when we were walking in the Turia, we spotted fallen fruit under many of the trees. A forager by nature, I couldn’t leave them there to rot. No, we had to gather them, so that when we returned home, we could have a very special souvenir of our holiday. Home-made marmalade, cooked from fruit gathered in Orange Central: Valencia.
Chopped and ready for the final bit of cooking.
I can’t show you the finished article. The marmalade is simmering on the stove as I type.
We knew Emma, who’d started Harrogate’s Food Assembly, was onto something. Every week, members of the Assembly can order from a range of locally and ethically produced goods, and meet those same producers when they come to collect their shopping on a Thursday evening. Brilliant. What a great way to support and meet local, high quality and human-scale producers, and to shop in a sociable and human-scale environment.
What we didn’t realise before was that this is part of an international movement. Here’s a quotation from The Food Assembly‘s website:
The Food Assembly’s vision is to create a better way to eat, where everyone has access to the pleasure of local food, and is connected to the people who make it.
Community is at the heart of The Food Assembly – we connect neighbours to farmers, neighbours to each other, and everyone to their food.
Starting in France, and now a movement across Europe, we believe in value-led innovation and are constantly seeking to sharpen our tool that connects people to local food producers.
Bringing power back to producers and consumers, our vision is a world with shorter supply chains where people connect to their food in a better way. By combining technology and sustainable agriculture, our vision is to support a healthier world where everyone can thrive.
Popping over 50 km. there and back to Harrogate on Thursdays won’t be easy. We plan to get a little posse together who’d enjoy this way of shopping too. We think it’s worth a bit of an effort to be part of something as exciting as this.
A little bit of locally produced mayonnaise …..
…. followed by a little bit of locally produced quiche.
This photo appeals to the part of me that can’t resist a good scavenge. The part of me that as a four year old, willingly got up at four o’clock to go mushrooming with my mother on the abandoned wartime airfield near Sandhutton.
The part that went gathering rosehips at school in the autumn to send away to be made into Delrosa rosehip syrup; and has always gathered blackberries in season, to jam, jelly or quite simply devour whilst picking.
We discovered that the inhabitants of rural France think just the same way. Nobody ever leaves home without an ‘au cas où‘ bag – ‘just in case’ they find some walnuts, almonds, mushrooms, wild cherries or mirabelles. And neither did we- that bag was often full by the time we got home.
Now we’re back, we hunt down the biggest, purplest sloes to lay down bottles of sloe gin for winter evenings.
And in autumn we never walk through the village without rescuing windfall apples from the path, disregarded by the trees’ owners because they quite simply have too much fruit in their own gardens.
Here’s some of last autumn’s haul, being transformed into blackberry and apple jelly to spread on toast after a chilly winter walk.
Every autumn we gather sloes from the hedgerows. Every autumn we make sloe gin, and lay it down for the Christmas of the following year. And every Christmas, we find ourselves sampling some of the hooch we made a mere three months previously.
With so little willpower at our command, what on earth has persuaded us to save a few bitter oranges from our annual marmalade making bonanza to concoct Seville orange gin this January? This recipe by Maria Dernikos admonishes us to make it, and leave well alone for three whole years. Good Lord, we might be dead by then.
It’s dead easy. All it needs is gin, the thinly pared zest from a few Seville oranges, a couple of cloves and lots of sugar. Bottle the lot, put in a cool dark place, and agitate daily till the sugar has dissolved.
After that, I think our only option is to try to forget all about it. And perhaps we could remember it just one month shy of the three-year requirement, and drink a small glass of it on Christmas Day 2020.
PS. With the juice from the pared Seville oranges, I made Seville orange curd. This recipe is a bit sweet for my taste so I added some lemon juice. Thanks Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall!
We are a horribly traditional couple, and no role model at all for our grandchildren. If it’s jobs round the house that need doing, Malcolm’s your man. He’s a very handy plumber, and spending the morning fiddling with the electrics presents him with no problems at all. He’s good at what he does. I’m not even any use as the gopher. I’ll bring him the wrong sort of screwdriver, and am apt to confuse hammers and mallets.
Cooking however is a different story. I’ll open the fridge and plan a meal round whatever catches my eye or needs using up. I read recipe books for fun, but rarely use them whilst actually cooking. Spending time in the kitchen is relaxing for me. Malcolm requires a detailed recipe, and if he finds we’re out of some minor ingredient, the planned-for dish is hastily abandoned. In advance of actually cooking, he carefully lines up, measures and weighs all he needs, just like Delia Smith used to do.
So this Christmas, I’ve given him a present designed to remove cooking-related stress. Here it is: a whole book of dishes needing only five ingredients, and top of the best-seller lists as well.
Very meanly though, I’ve insisted that in return for the gift, he has to plan and cook a dish from it once a week.
He says he’s up for the challenge. Happily, he hasn’t given me a D-I-Y book in return. No home deserves my botched attempts at repair and maintenance. Instead, he’s given me this: much more my cup of tea.
Malcolm says I ought to call this post ‘The Poisoned Chalice’. I think that’s a bit harsh.