Tuesday, September 19, 2006

And before you all think I've abandoned my blog...

I haven't!

I've been making them for others!

For whom do you think I might create a blog called "Maine Frame"? Rather witty I thought...

I've been asked to publicise Rupe's new blog....da da, DA DA DA, DA DA DAAAA!

It's here.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Sorry to forgo the bollocks...

I will return to the medieval weaponry asap. Naturally. Since you all love it so much...

But I was just penning a quick update, about the kids, as a comment, and I'm thinking..."It''s my bloody blog... so why am I commenting?"

So yes well the Evil One likes it at College so far, in a kind of "it's like n Activity Club/Day Camp!" kind of way. She's doing BTECs in Radio, Acting and Photography.

Perhaps remaining in the school and actually DOING the A Levels in English Language, Theatre Studies and Business Studies, with an IT General Studies number on the side might have stretched her a bit more academically but, issues arise...

Because she already has an AS in Threatre Studies she's 2nd year acting which means she's burst into an established group. Gosh. She's now Hamlet's mother Gertrude. (The only unassigned part) She'll have to act her socks of in that role... Good!

The Philosopher is back from his retakes. WHO KNOWS! He's just announced t'wasn't the girlfriend ditching him, at the eleventh hour, 'twas an arrogance all his own that made him think he didn't have to try that hard...

Well, says I "If you've sussed that now, tell 'em that you've learnt your smug little bastard lesson and promise them that you'll now work your butt off..." He's kind of agreeing. Kind of...

The younger daughter's House Captain election campaign, speech and whatnot is for Friday as it transpires. (Well I did think that was a bit short notice).

And Johnny. Well Johnny just empathises with all his siblings.

"My girlfriend dumped me, but I'm OK. Plenty more out there"
"Out-act them!" [Goes into a Vicki Pollard impression]
"Tell them what they want, Yanna! Then ask for their support!"


Johnny for PM? I believe there's a position going - round about May next year...

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Now that's a bollock knife!

From The Luttrell Psalter (British Museum MS. ADD. 42130), c. 1320-1340

A "ballok-kynf with boutones ouergylte" an early documentary reference dated to 1337 (Oxford English Dictionary).

I shall explain anon!

You lot are due a good bollocking!

Sixty comments on the chutney post below and what do I do? Go back to talking bollocks. Well, Man cannot live on recipes alone, and I refuse to discuss knitting patterns... unless it's to talk about the chainmail coif history project, which comprised 6 and a half thousand steel rings in a classic English barley twist pattern...

But I digress. So herewith I pop my popularity bubble. Bollocks!

Fellow Witanagamoter Sperestillan (whose blog has another name to confuse the enemy) gave us the short and sweet (or should that be short and curly?) on the derivation of the word bollocks, which to my mind was music to the ears, not least because our damned colonial cousins continually choose to cock it up. It's only foreign folk who coyly use bollox or bollix, or "ballicks". So they, must be educated. Which means giving a bit of context to the word for the benefit of us Brits too.

Good word bollocks! And it's not offensive at all, as was proved by John Mortimer QC (autor of Rumpole of the Bailey) who defended in the trial of the Sex Pistols' 'Never Mind the Bollocks'.
The enormous brouhaha over the release and naming of their debut album Never Mind the Bollocks became farcical when Virgin was unable to place advertising because the media weren’t prepared to risk possible prosecution because of that magic word – bollocks! It seems impossible to believe now how much trouble and strife this album created on its release in November ’77. It was even being sold under the counter in brown paper bags in the high street, and couldn’t be put on open display in stores – well non Virgin ones anyway! The Woolworth’s chain then the UK’s biggest record retailer, refused to stock it at all despite it being the runaway biggest selling album in the country.

Charges were bought under the 1899 Indecent Advertising Act (which was repealed after the case). But old Mortimer was no slouch and he called upon the Reverend Professor James Kingsley to give evidence, (due to him being an expert).

He said it was used in records from the year 1000 and in Anglo Saxon times it meant a small ball. The term was also used to describe an orchid. He said that in the 1961 publication of Eric Partridge's Dictionary of Slang, he had not taken into account the use of the word bollocks in the Middle Ages. He said it appears in Medieval bibles and veterinary books. In the bible it was used to describe small things of an appropriate shape. For instance bollocks could also be traced to a pulley-block at the head of a sailing topmast, otherwise known as a bullock block.

He said that the word also appears in place names without stirring any sensual desires in the local communities. Mortimer said that this would be similar to a city being called Maidenhead - that didn't seem to cause the locals in the vicinity any problems.

Mr. Kingsley said that Partridge in his books wrote that bollocks remained in colloquial use down through the centuries and was also used to denote a clergyman in the last century. ''The word has been used as a nickname for clergymen. Clergymen are known to talk a good deal of rubbish and so the word later developed the meaning of nonsense,'' he said. ''They became known for talking a great deal of bollocks, just as old balls or baloney also come to mean testicles, so it has twin uses in the dictionary''.

Mr. Ritchie asked him if he was just an expert on the word bollocks to which Kingsley replied that he was an expert on the English language who felt he could speak with authority on the derivation of a word such as bollocks. Mr. Ritchie asked Kingsley if the words f***, c*** and shit also appeared in the Dictionary of Slang from which he had quoted. Kingsley replied ''if the word f*** does not appear in the dictionary it should.''

(By the way, 'f***' and 'sh**' are on my 'to do' list.)

Mr. Mortimer in summing up the case for the defense said: “What sort of country are we living in if a politician comes to Nottingham and speaks here to a group of people in the city centre and during his speech a heckler replies 'bollocks'. Are we to expect this person to be incarcerated, or do we live in a country where we are proud of our Anglo Saxon language? Do we wish our language to be virile and strong or watered down and weak?

Upon returning to the courtroom some 20 minutes later the chairman of the bench made this finding:

“Much as my colleagues and I wholeheartedly deplore the vulgar exploitation of the worst instincts of human nature for the purchases of commercial profits by both you and your company, we must reluctantly find you not guilty of each of the four charges.''

Loving you and leaving you for a bit. Bollock knives to follow....

Oh alright then! I'll give you a quick pic as a teaser....

Saturday, September 02, 2006

For Sarnia - properly, pickled...

Since Sarnia expressed an interest, herewith, I give you a private peek into the pickle pantry.

The little jar in front containing the yellowy greeny chutney is the green tomato one in question. That's all we've got left! The recipe makes about 4lbs. It's yummy.

Green Tomato Chutney

2lb green tomatoes
8oz onions, chopped
8oz cooking apples, peeled cored and chopped
10fl oz cider vinegar
4oz sultanas
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon dry English mustard
8oz light brown sugar

The recipe says you skin the tomatoes by blanching them in hot water for 30 seconds. I now know you need longer than that or the pesky skins don't come off and then run them under the cold tap or the skin comes off your finger tips rather the tomatoes!

You chop the flesh and put it in a preserving pan with the onions and apples.

Add about half the vinegar and cook gently until the fruit and vegetables are soft, stirring frequently. (I find stirring is vital, as it makes me feel chef-like and important as well as giving the impression to the casual onlooker that I know what I'm doing).

Add the remaining vinegar with the sultanas, salt, cayenne pepper, dry mustard and sugar and continue to cook slowly for about 15 minutes until the chutney starts to thicken.

Pot while still slightly runny, and seal the jars. I'm told it will keep for at least 3 months, but I can't see our last little pot remaining unconsumed for that long!

In case you're wondering about the rest of the tracklements in the cupboard. The two tall jars back left are pickled beetroot. So easy to do.

Pickled Beetroot

Just twist off the leaves, wash well and cook whole in a saucepan of salted water until just undercooked rather than soft. Cool them under the cold tap, then squirt them out of their skins. Pack them into clean warmed jars.

Boil vinegar with peppercorns and an inch or so of peeled sliced ginger for 10 minutes. Strain off the spices, then set aside to cool. Pour the vinegar over the beetroot, making sure it's completely covered. Seal and store.

By the way beetroot is fine in Sarsons ready-spiced pickling vingar too. Traditionally, you can 'gimp beetrots into grotesque shapes' before pickling i.e. carve them into little satyrs with humorously large penises and whatnot, but mine were small ones - so I refrained from dickering about with them!

The dark brown one in the large jar front left, by rights belongs in the 101 things to do with a courgette series. It's a hot spicy chutney but also lovely as a glaze for roast shoulder of lamb or chicken. Just spoon it over the roast about 20 minutes before the end of cooking time.

Courgette Chutney (aka Patent Power Pickle)
1½lb courgettes, thickly sliced
2 tablespoons salt
8oz chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, chopped
12oz muscovado sugar (dark, sticky stuff)
1½ pints red wine vinegar
8oz raisins
1 tablespoon lightly crushed coriander seeds
1 tablespoon peeled chopped root ginger
2 x dried chillies

Sprinkle the courgettes with half the salt and leave to drain in a colander overnight.

Next day, rinse, drain and pat dry. Put into a heavy pan with the onion, garlic, remaining salt, sugar, vinegar and cook gently for about 15 minutes, until the sugar has dissolved and the vegetables have softened.

Add the raisins, spices, ginger and chillies, stir well and cook at a steady simmer for another 25 minutes or until mixture is thick, stirring frequently. Put into warm dry jars.>

And the three large jars on the right are obviously pickled onions. But they've got that lovely rosy tinge because they are a mixture of red onions, small brown onions and shallots. Here they are soaking in their brine overnight prior to pickling.

Pickled Onions

2lb pickling onions
2oz salt
1 pint clear malt vinegar
1 teaspoon black pepper corns
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
2 bay leaves
2 dried chillies
1oz ginger, peeled and sliced

Peel the onions carefully with a sharp knife, removing only the minimum at the base and tip. Soak overnight in the salt mixed with a pint of cold water.

Next day, drain the onions and wash them in cold water to get rid of excess salt. Set aside to drain.

Put the vinegar in a pan with the peppercorns, coriander seeds, bay leaves, chillies and ginger and boil for 10 minutes. Set aside to get cold.

Pack the onions into cleaned warmed jars, wiping each one with a cloth to get rid of the last traces of moisture. Pour on the cold vinegar.

If you like a very strong flavour, include the whole spices in the pickle, otherwise strain them off. Make sure the onions are completely covered with vinegar. Seal the jars and keep for about 6 weeks before opening.

So that's it, really... pickling is a doddle!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Your father smelt of Elderberries...

I no longer consider this to be an insult - the pythons were deluded fools!...And this is why.

First off the kids picked enough elderberries for a wine lake. Half the neighbourhood kids under the age of 13 were up in the trees like little crows. But heck you don't know how many berries you've got while they're on their little umbrells. You have to strip them off with a fork, which is great fun when you start, because they ping off all over the kitchen like miniscule black ink bombs. But if you do as many as this it becomes tiresome... (I bore easily!) However they do look all yummy and glossy like great fat caviar.

I was furnished with some excellent recipes and advice...

But I mixed and matched a bit, because quite a few knowledgeable types suggested that some apples and/or plums might lighten the wine in a pleasant sort of way. So as the neighbours' apple and plum trees were tantalisingly offering their bounty over their owners' perimeters, I stuck some in. The apples took on a rather fetching pink colour from the eldedrberry juice. Look at that! Good enough to eat!

The idea then was to slosh in a bit of water and boil them up to kill off any bad bacteria. Hmm yes but those old grannies had bloody great cauldrons, didn't they? I found I had to use every pan in the house!

I sloshed the fruit into the "primary fermentation vessel" - that's a bloody great bucket to you - and as I hadn't been able to get the sugar in the pans, as well as all that goodness, I dissolved the sugar in some water from the kettle and sloshed it in after the fruit.

You have to give it a stir, then wait until it's lukewarm to stir in the yeast. And there it sits - stewing for a couple of days.

This weekend I'm due to sieve the mixture... I (not unlike the Kaiser Chiefs) predict a riot... the potential for purple goo all over the shop is positively thrilling! Then the bung and airlock go in and I shall have to use every means at my disposal to resist the tempation to drink the wine for at least six weeks.

That's 5 gallons or 30 bottles. Should be ready for Christmas at a pinch. Yum!

I may regale you in another post with elderberry trivia, such as the fact that elderberries come from elder (Sambucus nigra) which is where you get sambuca (you know the liqueur witha coffe bean in it that you light in restaurants)which is made by infusing Elderberries and anise into alcohol.

Or I might not...