Saturday, 5 December 2015

Cake, cats and Christmas carols

We’ve had two days of pottering at home, we are slowly getting sorted out as belongings are put away. It’s been an absolute pleasure to be able to cook properly again. As it’s been cold and windy for the last couple of days while storm Desmond makes its way across the country, I have been making food fit for winter. We’ve enjoyed big bowls of cawl (a traditional Welsh soup/stew) which I made with chicken rather than lamb and an orange and ginger cake to go with a cup of tea.
This morning we went to our local garden centre, it was heaving with folks preparing for Christmas. Neatly wrapped trees could be seen weaving their way across the car park with people beneath them unable to see in which direction they were going and being buffeted around in the blowy weather.
Every year it saddens me that people make so much effort for this one special day a year and are so incredibly rude and unpleasant in the lead up to it. Every year I wish that people would be kinder and nicer all year round and extend that kindness to everyone, not just their family and friends who are with them on Christmas Day. Surely our world would be a nicer place if everyone remembered to be, well, nice!
Mr J found the five different songs playing through the loud speaker systems too much and waited for me outside while I selected the plants that I wanted to buy. I did wonder why as I walked around the garden centre I had listen to different songs depending on which part of the building I was in. It was possible to stand in one place and simultaneously hear 3 different carols being piped through slightly fuzzy speakers.
While Mr J waited outside a more elderly (more than us anyway) woman dropped an item as she left the garden centre. Mr J, being a gentleman, rushed forward saying ‘I’ll get that for you’ and started to bend to pick it up and her reply was ‘Get off that!’. It seem that the days of chivalry are fading, although, thankfully not entirely gone. I know that I would have been delighted for some help in that situation. As we talked about it on the way home, I suggested that perhaps she thought he was going to steal it, after all we hear about people running off with things when we think they are going to help. Mr J chuckled and replied ‘Yes, because we all want to rob a little old lady for a cartoon cats wall calendar’!
Talking of cats, Archie got his own personal door yesterday. I have installed cat-flaps into the doors of several homes in the past so was confident about how to do this and also knew that it took about half an hour to do. Well that was in the past, nowadays everything takes much longer to do than it used to. Since I became ill, I have very little strength so simple things like using a drill or jig saw are now very hard work and getting up and down to cat-flap level is a major performance. Still I was determined that I was going to do this and Mr J, seeing that I was set on achieving this little task on my own, made a sensible retreat to his study for a while until it sounded like it was (safe) a good time to join me. I got most of it done without incident and thankfully he appeared just in time to cut the bolts to length, a task that may have taken me hours. In the end it took me three and a half hours, but the cat now has a very smart cat flap to use and can come and go as he pleases. And mostly it pleases him to be in and out, and in and out repeatedly during the night. He is very much a nocturnal creature and in our rented house (which had no cat-flap) we were up and down the stairs during the night as he yowled his mournful and very loud yowl.
So last night he was allowed to venture outside for the first time, we had offered to show him around the garden earlier in the day, but he wasn’t interested in being woken up to survey his new territory. Archie’s night time accommodation has been the boot room. He has been pretty good about settling down and not making too much fuss for the previous four nights and last night, because he now had his own special door, he was able to go out, so he did.
Inevitably no sooner had Mr J fallen asleep than I heard the unmistakable screeching of ‘cat meets cat’ from somewhere not too far from the bedroom window. Not wanting to disturb Mr J, I groped around in the dark to find my dressing gown and slippers and headed downstairs to sort out the cat fight that was brewing outside. Well, could I see him? Absolutely not, he had done a very good vanishing act. I couldn’t see him and I couldn’t hear him, so I stood in the garden in my dressing gown and clogs with the wind whistling around my legs and blowing my hair across my face calling him to no avail. There was nothing for it, I was going to have to wake Mr J, I simply couldn’t face explaining to him in the morning that I had lost Archie overnight, so I crept back upstairs and woke him as gently as I could. As ever my hero, it was no bother to have woken him and he headed downstairs to join me in the cat search. Mr J opened the back door, called Archie and he immediately appeared. I get the distinct impression that the cat likes to humiliate me.
Gluten free Orange and Ginger Cake

4oz lightly salted Butter

2oz unrefined  Muscovado sugar
2 tblspn golden syrup
2 Eggs
Finely grated zest of large Orange
4 drops of Orange Extract
1 tspn dried ginger
½ tspn freshly grated ginger
½ tspn dried cinnamon powder
4oz finely ground Cornmeal
2oz self-raising gluten free flour
1 tsp gluten free Baking Powder
For the topping
2oz icing sugar
1-2 tblsp hot Water
A little orange zest
 Preheat oven to 375F, 190C, 170 fan, gas mark 5.
Grease and line or flour a 9 inch round tin or flan dish.
Cream butter and sugar, stir in golden syrup, add eggs and mix well. Stir in grated zest of one orange (keeping a little aside for the topping), orange extract, dried ginger, grated ginger and cinnamon. Fold in cornmeal and flour and baking powder and pour into prepared tin or dish. Bake in the centre of the oven for approximately 25 minutes. Check that it is fully cooked using a skewer (if it comes out clean, the cake is ready).
Leave to rest for a couple of minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack to cool.
Prepare icing by adding the hot water to the icing sugar and mix to a smooth paste.
Turn cake onto a serving plate and spoon icing over the cake and spread out a little with the back of a spoon.


  1. I just snorted tea out of my nose, thankfully it was cold as the baby is asleep on me and is now slightly damp! Typical Archie, such a daddy's boy! I hope you saved some cake for our visit! I'm salivating! C Xx

    1. There's a slice of cake with your name on it and maybe some cawl to take home with you too. x


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