Pandemic Pondering #59

The textures of Sunday. Lockdown Sundays are supposed to be days of relaxation and recuperation from the giddy whirl of trying to fill the previous 6 days with tasks and dog walks, which will keep our minds and bodies happy and active. We’ve not always been successful, there have been some not so happy days and some curiously exhausted days. This week has felt full to the brim with thoughts and activities. We’ve had a whole new way of eating to consider , no carb, no dairy and as of Wednesday a slight relaxation of Lockdown rules. We coped better with the change of diet than we did with the new freedoms. So all things considered Sunday should have been a day of reflection, relaxation and recalibration but for some reason that wasn’t quite suiting us . Hannah opted to do some hard landscaping of the garden storage area. It’s a bit of a struggle to get pebbles or other garden DIY supplies. There was no real choice so our hard landscaping has been done with soft sounding pebbles described as Raspberry Ripple.

It is fitting really that Hannah was working on Raspberry Ripple because I was in the kitchen using up carbs and experimenting with new ingredients.

Bread and Butter Pudding


Cauliflower Hummous

Time to read a book!

Pandemic Pondering #49

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

Or preserve them, a couple of years ago we had a lemon grove attached to a holiday villa in Greece. We preserved a litre and a half of lemons , brought them home and they’ve lasted until now.

Gathering lemons in Greek sunshine to the accompaniment of goat bells and in the company of leathery faced women wearing black is not a chore.

It was not a particular chore to buy unwaxed lemons at Lidl but it does have zero romance. The sunshine today was pretty similar to Greece. No goats and the only leathery faced women were wearing fleeces, not the same at all.

Now preserving lemons is not a huge subject for a pondering but it saves you all from more hedge trimming Ponderings. The storms of yesterday disturbed the bits of hedge we had chopped but not been able to pull out. We’ve tweaked it to near parfection now.

I really believe this is the last time the hedge will get a mention.

Pandemic Ponderings #45

Sunday takes a similar shape to any other day in the pandemic lock-down but there are accessories to the day which make it different. Sunday permits laziness in the hours that would normally be spent with family and friends. The dogs get walked , books and newspapers get read. There is always cake. Cake in a Pandemic is a serious business, there is nothing flimsy about our pandemic cakes. They are always home- made and are described as having ‘heft’.Everything about our cake choices is hefty. The flavours are strong, Guinness, Cocoa, Strong Coffee and the textures are extreme. Super moist brownie, deep black dense texture or richly golden crumble.

We seem to be adopting bold colours and bold flavours during this lockdown. I wonder if it’s because the world seems brighter when we are allowed out so our indoor life has to get brighter and bolder too.

The tulips in the house are feeling pretty bold too. Or are they hefty?

Pandemic Pondering #39

Sunday was cooking day for us. I made Brownies from a foolproof recipe which I had to adapt because we couldn’t get all the ingredients. That then makes it not foolproof of course.

The reason I needed a foolproof recipe is fussiness. I only like a brownie that is dry or crisp on the outside and very moist on the inside. I was browsing the internet on a completely different quest when another blogger claimed the same fussiness and presented the ‘perfect’ recipe. Normally I would have waited until I could get the correct ingredients but yesterday I had all the pandemic time in the world and a yearning for a perfect Brownie.

My necessary adaptations caused no problems and the resulting brownie was so lovely I’m going to have to adapt and rewrite the recipe to use forevermore.

The things I couldn’t get were , unsalted butter and milk or dark chocolate nibs.

Here is the brownie served with ice cream and cream. A serving suggestion first brought to my notice by the wonderful Jessie and Lennie Ware on the Podcast , Table Manners.

Try it, you might never go back.

The brownie is versatile and is equally happy with a cup of tea.

We also stepped into the world of Nigella Lawson and made a tray bake chicken supper that involved frozen peas and Cinzano Bianco.

We employed social distancing and distributed chocolate brownies to a few friends.

The dogs didn’t have to social distance and enjoyed Mel’s hard work rejuvenating her water feature during one delivery.

The Poppies are putting up quite a show on the tidied up rough ground.

People are stopping to take their portraits. At a Social Distance naturally.

Pandemic Pondering #38

Saturday night @theoldmortuary.

A curious mix of old and new. We finally managed to get our hands on some Cherry Liqueur and were able to make a derivative of the ‘Hix Fix’ cocktail, a reward for diligent moss raking in the garden and exterior painting of the actual old mortuary.

I’m not sure where Cherry Liqueur fits into ‘ essential’ shopping but it was bought at the same time as an adequate but not extravagant quantity of toilet roll. In the interests of total honesty it was also bought alongside a bottle of Cinzano Bianco for cooking purposes.

The ‘ old’ of our Saturday night was watching Brassed Off. A British film set in Yorkshire at the time of the closure of Coal Mines by the Conservative Government during the time of Margaret Thatcher.


Cocktails and a comedy/drama. Exploring the harm caused to a community by the loss of jobs and the accompanying damage to a way of life; driven by a government devoid of compassion, whilst drinking cocktails, would have felt a shocking pairing in 1996 when the film was made. The film is ‘grand’, as they would say in Yorkshire

The passing of time has made the drinking of cocktails more acceptable and less elitist than they were in 1996. Elitist governments that lack intelligent compassion have not become any more acceptable.

Let’s return to the Cocktail , a thing of simple beauty.

Invented by Mark Hix and first exposed to me by a fabulous work colleague, Nic Delahunty in Pandemic Pondering#25 .

We had to slightly change the recipe because of Pandemic restrictions.

We used in each glass.

Two Morrello cherries.

Two teaspoons of Cherry Brandy, we could have used Kirsch perhaps.

Top up the glass , you can see the style we used, with Prosseco, any sparkling wine will do.

Pandemic Pondering #36

Free Friday Feeling… In a Pandemic what is a Friday Feeling? I’m not entirely sure, I’ve researched pictures from Fridays past that were freer than our current Fridays. I took orange as a bit of a theme.

This Friday is the first of Ramadan, although gathering is not permitted the fabulous call to Prayer coming from a Mosque is one of the loveliest sounds.

Ramadan Mubarak


Iftar, the breaking of the fast, will be be less sociable than normal years.

Breaking a fast brings me to food, orange is the link.

Tate Modern
Boston Tea Party
Rosemary and Chilli nuts @theoldmortuary
Afternoon Tea
Oranges and Lemons
Crumpets @theoldmortuary
Vegetarian Platter

The last two images are not exactly food related. First one of my favourite glamour models for Watercolour paintings.

Mr Lobster

And finally not food for humans, Herons maybe.

Goldfish in a spin.

Pandemic Ponderings #25 Chapter 5

Easter 2020 in Lockdown was an intriguing one. Throughout the world people were unable to gather.

Our Lockdown Easter for two involved chocolate and some lovely home cooking. Pandemic Ponderings #25 gave us the chance to gather together with friends and family, sharing stories and anecdotes using technology. It wasn’t as lonely as I anticipated and the food lasted longer than it ever has, but next year it would be good to get back to normal, I accept that means the weather will be shocking.

Pandemic Ponderings #25 Chapter 4

Here we go off to Hungary with an artist friend Ildiko who sent me these words and pictures.

“Easter traditions go back to pagan ones. It’s the start of spring, the break from lent. On Easter Monday morning men would draw fresh water from the well and splash that over the young women to keep them fresh for the coming year.
Nowadays this ‘watering’ is done with parfume and is slightly more sophisticated. Boys and men would visit female members of their families, say a short, funny, sometimes rude and erotic rhyme, at the end of which they ask permission ‘to water’ the lady/girl. They get permission and in return they receive an egg. Traditionally these eggs would be dyed and decorated, the must common being a red one, but more often theyare now chocolate eggs and kids get money. All visitors would be offered drinks and food and it’s rude not to take any, so men would return home drunk and bursting at the seams 😅😅 ”

This fresh looking plate is the traditional Hungarian Easter Feast .

Boiled smoked ham with boiled eggs and spring vegetables.

From traditional food to Sam Fords Easter Feast in Lockdown . Sam is a long term friend and ex- neighbour whose honest approach to an Easter Feast suits us @theoldmortuary very well.

“Although it was a specifically religious feast the food itself signified nothing more than a love of kitchen work matched with pretentious tastes!”

“This is a (sort of) lamb shawarma from yesterday. I also stuffed medjool dates with walnut, coconut and cardamom powder”.

Sam works with a Bristol Charity One25.

Visit the charities website to see the amazing work this charity does.

This chapter is top and tailed by artist friends.

Check out this cake from Janet Brady.

Love in cake form.

Pandemic Ponderings #25 Chapter 3

Chapter 3 finds us in North London where an Easter tradition of 18 people gathering has shrunk to just two this past weekend. Two flatmates isolating together, one of whom is a friend from The Heart Hospital. The numbers might have been down but the creative effort was high.

The day was lubricated with a Hix Fix, surely one of the easiest cocktails in the world to make. Two teaspoons of Cherry Liqueur in a saucer style champagne glass topped up with Champagne or sparkling wine. I’m loving the Pandemic twist with this one. No one shopped for the desirable but non essential Morello Cherries.

Googling has informed me that TV chef Keith Floyd drank two of these at The Fish House, Lyme Regis, just before he died.

It was his Last Supper.

This is hugely relevant to this blog as this exactly where Nic experienced her first Hix Fix and thankfully survived. Hugely relevent too because I go off piste a bit with this blog.I promise I will pull it all together in the end.

This is where I take some time out and share a family anecdote. This is getting just like a gathering of friends and family.

My Dad knew that he was dying, he had terminal bowel cancer . He remained mentally alert during his increasingly rare periods of wakefulness. He had a schedule of Last Suppers that needed to be fulfilled, each with its own tiny guest list. Shamefully I only remember the ultimate and penultimate ones although I believe afternoon tea with his cousin, Gwen, was also one. As anyone, who has spent a lot of time with someone who is dying, will attest not only the earthly guests attend these gatherings. My grandmother had afternoon tea with my Dad and his cousin, something that slightly bothered him as he was eating in bed. The fact that she was dead was not a bother at all. The next day was scheduled to be an Indian Takeaway, with a very specific order from a particular Take Away, it was to be shared with one of my Dad’s much loved work colleagues called Gordon and his wife Doreen. It was a surprise to us all when my husband’s Dad turned up. Not only was he too dead he didn’t much like Indian Takeaway.

The actual Last Supper was Smoked Salmon Sandwiches and Prosseco and was attended in the earthly sense by Dad’s friends Margaret and Tony, myself,my husband at the time , Steve and my Uncle Peter. The three of us had been my dad’s only carers in the last week and were the fulfilment department of food dreams and guest lists. My mum was about but sadly she was already terminally ill herself and had a rare neurological disorder.

The guest list at the actual last supper went wildly out of control. Nothing wrong with the earthly participants but the deceased ones went crazy. There were people there we didn’t even know were dead.

In the morning we discovered that amid the uncleared plates and unfinished Prosseco glasses my dad had slipped off with the uninvited guests.

Now that is why googling in the middle of a blog is a risky old business. The Hix Fix knocked me completely off my chosen path. My apologies to Nic and her house party for two and those of you who were waiting for the next course.. No more googling for today.

To be fair Nic has suggested in her email to me that the Hix Fix may have knocked her slightly off the path of culinary perfection but like everyone who has worked in highly challenging environments in the Health Service she was prepared and she knew what had to be done.

Here we are back on track.

Big, fat, succulent , scallops on a pea puree with crispy Iberico Ham.

Followed by

Chicken Mole with Rice.

I am just going to have to slip off to Google . Mole!!

Wow. South American Chicken Stew with many gorgeous ingredients. This is going to be a Lockdown learning experience.

Here is the desert, slightly improvised because Nic had a broken oven. Lime and ginger posset with sesame things. It should have been served with home made sesame shortbread.

Thanks Nic Delahunty that was amazing food , thank you for taking the time to share.

The plan was to head off to Hungary next in Chapter 3 but I’ve probably given you enough for today so tomorrow that’s where we are off to.

Pandemic Ponderings #25 Chapter 2

Chapter 1 ended with @theoldmortuary taking time out to enjoy an Easter Sunday Roast. Over the long weekend we had a dig around in food cupboards to see what ingredients we had to make celebratory food even though there are only two of us here.

Mincemeat was the most obvious make, using up dried fruits, marmalade, nuts and suet from Christmas. We had no Brandy so the mincemeat will have the flavour of Cuba.

More Dried fruit and a curiously large amount of ground almonds in the store cupboard lent itself very well to a recipe for Simnel Cake. A very traditional part of British Easter, but not in our house. The closest we had ever got to Simnel Cake was a special edition chocolate bar from Kernow Chocolate company last Easter.

Undeterred by inexperience Hannah set about making the cake and I learnt the sticky art of making home-made marzipan. We were pretty far through the process when we watched Mary Berry making one on TV. Mary appeared to be using shop bought Marzipan!!!! She also burnt her Apostles , the 11 marzipan balls on top, with a blow torch. As luck would have it we have a blow torch, of course we do.

I took before and after pictures just in case the whole blow torching thing went terribly wrong. It didn’t so here is our inaugural Simnel Cake in all its torched glory.

And here is the before shot which was a little more artistically staged.

Here is our main event, it sets the stage for what will be a rather meaty chapter.

Whilst we were enjoying the fruits of our labours, and those of unknown West Country vegetable farmers and a distant New Zealand sheep farmer, other roasty photographs were tumbling into my in box. The first a fabulous Bird Roast from Becky Reep who lives up the river from us in Cargreen.

Unexpectedly some fabulous Greek images came in while we were enjoying supper. Another work colleague from the Heart Hospital, Alayna Malamoutsi sent me this facebook message and photographs from last year’s Greek Orthodox Easter.

“In Greece they fast for 40days in lent. They break the fast Saturday night of Easter weekend with a goat Offal soup.

Then on the Sunday they spit roast a Lamb and the other meat in the photo is kokoretsi (which is offal wrapped round the spit with intestines).

Their Easter is also going according to their Greek Orthodox Calendar. So doesn’t fall at the same time as ours normally. ”

So much meat! Next week Pandemic Pondering#25 will be filled with lockdown Orthodox Easter feasts. It’s lovely to see a normal one with families close enough to hug.

Hugs are the thing I miss most currently.

Alaynas gorgeous lamb pictures lead me to Poland, although not actual Poland as our Polish relations in Poland couldn’t get what they needed for a modified lockdown feast. So no photo’s.

Our Polish pictures and a super tenuous link take us to Truro where Sam, Justyna and VV live. Justyna created Polish breakfast for them all including, Sheep shaped butter.

Less tenuous a link and to balance the somewhat meaty core of this blog, Sam’s sister Jenna and her boyfriend Charlie, isolating in Wimbledon, sent us this beautiful shot of Cinnamon Almond Lentil Stew.

I love it because it gives Chapter 2 such a beautiful full stop.

If Pandemic Pondering Chapter 1 or 2 have inspired you to hunt out or create any feast pictures, either Lockdown or past Real World feasts please email them to me Pandemic Pondering #25 will run until the end of Orthodox Easter next week. I am lacking Passover feasts at the moment.