Saturday, December 4, 2010

In the Bake House.

The great mince pie bake is going well, with about twenty-two dozen done so far, and more pastry in the fridge ready for the next session. Last week we had our meter changed so we are now on the 'cheaper rate at night' tariff for electricity. The hours are more generous that they were when we were on it in UK. The cheap rate runs from 11.00p.m. til twelve noon the next day. We put the washing machine, dish washer and pool pump on when we go to bed now, but the cooker is our most power-hungry appliance, so I am trying to get most of my baking done in the mornings. I don't know whether any of you watch the programme Nigel Slater's suppers. It's not something that I make an effort to see, but I quite often pick it up almost by accident, and some of his dishes are quite interesting, though some are rather strange. This week he did an interesting meal of beef cooked in beer with onions and mustard, served with a big dollop of apple sauce, so I gave it a go on Friday and it was really nice. He also made a cake with raisins and mixed seeds in, and the extra ingredient was a fair amount of grated raw beetroot. Well, I have always enjoyed carrot cake, and we are both fans of beetroot so I decided to have a go today. It was a sloppy, very pink mixture, as you can see from the empty bowl, and it took a long time to cook. It said to let it stand for at least twenty minutes before turning it out; then as soon as it had cooled enough I just had to cut across it. I was expecting a deep rich red cake, so I was very disappointed to find that it didn't look any different from an ordinary fruit cake - just a nice golden brown! Where did all that colour go? When it was properly cold I added the lemon icing that was a part of the recipe, and I must say, the piece we had for tea was very nice so I'm glad I gave it a try. You can see a few of my mince pies behind the cake. I didn't do a proper session today as we had to go shopping first for animal food, so I was late starting. But I wanted some pastry to make an 'apple' pie for tomorrow, and I used the rest up on mince pies. It isn't really an apple pie because it is made with quince from my friend's tree. We don't get cooking apples out here, but the quince are quite 'tart' and they make a better pie than eating apples do. Apple pies were a favourite back in UK and with that lovely big bramley tree in the garden, I made them quite regularly. I was so sad when, almost the first thing our buyer did, was cut the tree down. We were grateful for its shade as well as its fruit, so its her loss.

We have had a chilly, wet week here, but it seems mean-spirited to complain while all the folks back in UK are struggling with arctic conditions. Some of our days have been lovely and sunny, but as soon as the sun sets, the temperature drops, and it is that time of year when it is often warmer outside than in the house. I walked up to the post office yesterday and the wind was freezing, but our back porch was really sheltered and both yesterday, and today, we have been able to sit out there to eat our lunch. The thermometer, which is on the porch wall but not in direct sunlight, was showing 18º around midday. We have learned that the secret is not to allow ourselves to get cold, so before tea, we close all the shutters, and light the calor-gas fire in the main room, and I change into trousers, socks and slippers. That way we keep quite comfortable all evening. The nights have been down to 6 or 7º this week but the forecast says it will only drop to around 14º next week, with 21º in the day time, so that will be good. Of course you can't beat having a couple of cats curled up on your lap for warmth. I have just upset Luna and Baggins by turfing them off so I could come down to my room to do this!

I have featured my two fluffy cats, Arwen and Baggins, quite a lot just lately so I thought I'd give Paco and Luna a bit of space today. As it gets cooler, they choose to stay indoors more and this week I found them curled up together on a chair. They looked so comfortable together. Luna is pretty easy with all the others and the dogs don't bother her too much, but Baggins and Paco don't hit it off at all well. It's probably because they are both males, and males are notoriosly teritorial. Sometimes they will each curl up on a chair in the same room and be fine, but if one walks too near to the other, then they growl and when they fight there is fur flying everywhere. I usually shut them in separate rooms to cool off. Anyway, here are my two campo cats. Luna is just six months old so she is still quite a baby, and she just likes to be close to someone, and if she can resist the temptation to play with their tails, all the others put up with her, but she gets on with Paco the best.

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