Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Welsh cakes

I fear I am turning into a moany old cow. On and on I go, whinge whinge whinge, with no good reason. Either life is so boring, yawn, isn't motherhood a drudge, I've got no work on, I'm a total failure - or !!! everything is chaos !!! Kitty is ill!!!! and I haven't a MINUTE to myself and GOD MAN ALIVE if only someone would HELP ME.

I'm worried that it's all getting a bit samey, that I'm starting to repeat myself, going on, getting boring. And I also think I might be starting to repeat myself.

That reminds me of my mother's favourite story about the Queen Mother, which goes like this:

The Queen Mother is visiting an old people's home and she says to an old dear: "Do you know who I am?" The old dear smiles and points a trembling finger yonder: "Oh, if you don't know who you are, you go and speak to that lady over there."

Then my mother cries with laughter.

I am jolly lucky that my mother is alive, in good nick and living just up the road. She is catnip for toddlers, my mother. She lets them make a terrible mess and break things, pick food off her plate and put marbles in their mouths. When children reach a certain age, (about two and a half), she takes them out collecting sticks and then they bring them back to the house and set fire to them.

So as you can imagine, the last ten weeks living at my mother's house has been like paradise for Kitty. She calls my mother Gagu (pronounced Gah-gee), which is a mutation of the Welsh for granny, "Mamgu".

"GAH-GEE?!" shrieked Kitty every morning. "GAH-GEE! GAH-GEE! GAH-GEE!" We are back home now and Kitty wanders the echoey rooms saying "Gah-gee?" sadly.

Living in my childhood home has made me start to really fetishise childhood in a way I never thought I would. There are millions of children at my mother's house, all the time. Never fewer than two, under five. So there is Play-Dough smelted against almost every surface, boxes of Lego, Charlie and Lola videos and an audience of stuffed toys wryly watching the action in every room.

Now Kitty is walking and talking I've turned into one of those mothers who wants to preserve their child's "innocence" and bang on to myself about wanting her to be able to be "free" to "be a child".

I'm being an idiot, though. I remember clearly the grim games of "grown-ups" that used to go on in the playground, my own yearning from about nine years old, to be several tens of years older than I actually was. Being small feels so unimportant. You are liable to be laughed at by grown-ups, they just won't take you seriously - it's dementing. You long to be older so that people will treat you with some fucking respect.

But I still plan to forge ahead with manufacturing a neat little cosily conventional childhood for Kitty, (even though it's actually for me), with Peppa Pig box sets, tea at 5pm, strict bedtimes, bucket and spade holidays, picture books, rocking horses, baking fairy cakes, wellies with frog eyes on the front. All that crap.

And I could do worse in my quest to shape Kitty's memories to my liking, than getting to be a dab hand at Welsh cakes, verily the taste of my childhood. They are also known as, I think, drop scones or griddle cakes. It's basically a sort of scone batter cooked in a dry frying pan. They are as delicious as they sound.

You cannot buy these, they do no exist commercially - and what I mean by this is that you CAN buy things that claim to the Welsh cakes on the packet, but the whole point about them is that they have to be eaten about half and hour off the griddle, still warm, with salted butter. Once they are not freshly made, piping hot, they cease to be Welsh cakes. At least that's my view.

They're alright the next day but not as good. My mother makes a batch when there is about to be an extra large kiddie invasion and we all stand at the kitchen counter at 3.15pm shoving them in our faces with both hands, before swinging on the curtains, daubing ourselves with mud and fighting each other with sticks.

Please note the self-raising flour.

Mamgu's Welsh cakes
Makes about 20

8 oz self raising flour
4 oz butter
2 oz caster sugar
2 oz currants
1 egg

1 Put the flour, butter and sugar into a bowl and then cut in the butter (this is easier if the butter is soft. Yes I know this is a pain in the bum, but butter only takes 30 mins to soften up in a room temperature kitchen, so go away and fold some laundry or something).

2 Rub the butter in with your fingers until it looks like breadcrumbs.

3 Beat the egg, add in and mix until there is a pliable dough.

4 Roll out to a thickness of 1cm and then cut with a pastry cutter

5 Fry in batches in a hot, dry frying pan for about 4 minutes each side, or until golden brown, and then transfer to a cooling rack. My mother claims to have seen these baked on a hot hoe over an open fire in a field, but I think she might be having me on. You can never quite tell with her.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Lemon Posset

There is nothing more boring than a blog post that starts "Sorry you haven't heard from me for a while, it's all just been so busy...."

It's as boring as settling down to read someone's diary and the entries go:

"2nd Feb...
... Dear Diary, gosh it's been so long since my last entry!...."

"5th July...
... Dear Diary, gosh it's been so long  since my last entry!....."

So I won't start this blog post like that. And anyway, I'm not sorry. It's a miracle I update Recipe Rifle at all, what with my chronic heartburn and never making a penny out of it and being totally and utterly fed up with both cooking and writing.

If you are looking for some sort of explanation then it's because at first I couldn't think of anything to say. All I could think was how annoying Kitty was being, but that was what the last post was about. And then whenever I was about to sit down and do something, awful things would happen. Like Kitty got really ill. And I mean REALLY ill this time, a temperature of 104 and terrible eczema all over her and I had to see about a million different doctors and urgh, I feel quite ill myself thinking about it. AND my husband was away in America and the whole thing was so stressful I was sent running into the arms of a strip of Valium I nicked off my Dad. It was really Seventies.

And then we went on holiday for a bit, which was lovely but I wasn't going to blog from THERE. And now my husband's in trouble again for saying something or other on Twitter, which I won't go into because it's too dementing.

Anyway I am as I write this waiting for him to finish off some work before we go out for a Chinese to drown our sorrows in spring rolls and neon orange sauce, and I'm pacing about and worrying about him and feeling sad that it's all gone bonkers (again) and vaguely wondering if he can ever be persuaded not to say just exactly precisely whatever's in his brain .... and I realised with shock that Recipe Rifle is now an entire month out of date and as it so happens I've got something to say about lemon posset.

I don't like lemon puddings - at all. I've said it before. The acid of the lemon combined with the sweetness and sugariness of other ingredients reminds me powerfully of vomit. But there's something different about lemon posset, maybe it's the really serious creaminess of the thing.

We had this at my sister's house in Oxford over the weekend, made by a terrific fellow called Rory Dorman. Ah yes, the weekend, back when life was still nice and Twitter hadn't fallen on our heads. It seems a golden time, the one sunny day we've had for ages. Maybe the memory of it and the deliciousness of the posset will change my mind about lemon puddings for ever. But I suspect not.

Lemon Posset by Rory Dorman
For about 6 or 8

500ml double cream
lemon and zest of 2 lemons
100g sugar

1 Bubble the cream in a pan gently for 3 minutes

2 Add the sugar and your lemony stuff and whisk

3 Pour into ramekins or glasses and chill for 3 hours

We had ours with raspberry coulis and little posh french biscuits and it was delicious.