A Pillow Book

I wanted a blog to reflect my life and, as with most people, I do and am many things, so decided to create a Pillow Book. It will have thoughts, ideas, observations and little snippets of my day to day life. So, thank you Empress Consort Teishi....... I bow to you and your great work and hope, in some small way, mine might be great too.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

My Desert Island Discs

I have been a stalwart fan Desert Island Discs for many years and have experienced great excitement as the BBC has just opened up much of the archive, which has been a joy to go through. On the 11th June there is to be a special programme featuring, amongst other things, lists submitted by the public!!! All fans will no doubt have spent hours dreaming of their eight records, book and luxury.  Now we all have a chance to submit our music choices at least.  I have always known my luxury, paints and paper, surprisingly, only Vera Lynn, Alma Coogan and recently Debbie Harry have chosen this particular combination.....I found that hard to believe so changed my wording in the search box to 'paints' many more came up including Barry Humphries and Trevor MacDonald but paints without paper??? Hopefully Kirsty would be kind and include a tablet or two even though not specifically requested. I would accept the Bible and Shakespeare my other book would be a 'Teach yourself Polish' it is a great regret of mine that all I can manage is 'hello', 'goodnight', etc and some nursery rhymes...so trapped alone with hours of nothing to do I should hopefully be able to get some of my father's language into my head!

But then the music.....a lifetime of song condensed into eight! At first thought almost an impossibility...eighty I could do but EIGHT!! Anyway, I set to with pad and pen and started to think, of people, events, times of my life, locations....much writing, much crossing out. I thought of a Strauss waltz for my granny, but I HATE Strauss waltzes and the thought of listening that would send me off the cliff..so decided against. The Lord of the Dance..again took me back to school as a small child and thinking of my brother singing Franchet Lee (he mispronounced Francis Lee, footballer) instead of 'dance said he'...but again would I want to listen to that over and over? For my mum:-Mairzy Doates (and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy) but I only have to think of the title and the song is in my head ALL DAY LONG...so that was out.. For my dad I thought of Ave Maria in Polish, but that would make me too too sad...

So, my method to choosing was as follows, happy dancing songs for days when I feel sad, soul soothing music for days when I need comforting and some that are particular to those that I love...

Here we go....
in no particular order...
How Sweet It Is To Be Loved by You James Taylor 
Let There Be Love Nat King Cole
The Lark Ascending Vaughan Williams
Dance the Night Away The Mavericks
The First Time Ever I Saw your Face Christy Moore
Blame it on the Boogie The Jacksons
Polish Accordion Music by Uncle Henry
Miserere Allegri

For today at least this is my list, I could add many more, but the memories created by these are wonderful and would hopefully see me through bad days.. Dance the Night Away....pushing back the table with my children and now my nieces, as they are the only ones who can dance with abandon. Accordion music takes me to family gatherings and standing on my dad's toes dance.... Christy Moore....travels around Ireland with Paul...

Over the last century music has given us a soundtrack to our lives, a song/piece will take us to a day, a person, an emotion. As I get older I can no longer listen to music radio as my soundtrack I wish to choose, not be forced upon. 

https://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/features/desert-island-discs/your-desert-island-discs 


Here is the link.....go on choose yours!











Sunday, 15 May 2011

Babca...a family recipe.....

I have been reading Molly Weizenberg's book 'A Homemade Life, stories and recipes from my kitchen table'...a good companion to Two Greedy Italians, and it has got me thinking of my own family recipes.....
Molly's recipe for pound cake reminded me of Babka, my families version of pound cake. My dad was not a great cake eater, he loved meat, and apple pie, his mums cinnamon buns but he did love this cake. I have not made it for many years, probably since he died, it is a plain cake and my children like chocolate cakes, cookies and brownies, so there has been no need, until now. It is made in a bundt tin and has a lot of eggs, sugar, butter, flour and milk, but what of quantities? Then I remembered an old diary of mine and that I had written down Cioca Ania's recipe. Amazingly I found the diary (amongst my recipe books) had a giggle at some of the entries (boys, discos) felt saddened at the weight loss grid that showed the 7 and a half stone girl was trying to get down to 6.5! Finally the recipe, well recipe of sorts....
I had written all the ingredients down, plus a method, but no oven temperature or timings......first I needed a tin, I
I remember it needing a large pan, Cioca had an American bundt tin, last time I cooked it I had used a regular spring form tin but ended up with a lot of batter left over, so, last weekend I made a little trip to TKMax and lo and behold there it was, sitting on the reduced shelf....fate indeed! I have had such a busy week I didn't have time to bake, finally after much running around today I had a few hours at home and off I went!
Everything was going ok until the ingredients said 'a glass of milk'

How big is a glass?? I decided on using a cup measure and in fact added slightly less than the full cup.
I ended up with a nice soft batter that almost filled my pan, I had no oven temperature written down so checked out Bundt recipes on the Internet, it took about an hour, or just a smidgen over....Babca!


Ready for the oven...............











Cooling...............











Eating....... can you tell I LOVE all things spotty......
It is a moist cake, plain and buttery, would be great with a little glace icing on top, or with fruit and creme fraiche for dessert, but best of all with coffee and conversation with family or friends.....
I took a big chunk up to Winchester to sustain my boyfriend, Pau,l for his busy meeting filled rushing around days and half was sent to Cornwall in a box of goodies for my daughter who is homesick and stressed at end of term exams....it travels well and housemates loved it!!



Recipe.....
Babka
8oz caster sugar
8oz butter (at room temperature)
6 eggs
1 llb Self raising flour
1 glass of milk
half teaspoon of baking powder

Bundt tin (buttered and floured)
oven temp 350 deg F 180 deg C (fan 160)

Cream butter and sugar, until light and fluffy, add eggs one at a time, add milk and flour in thirds.
Place in tin and bake for about an hour.

As I said I used just under a cup of milk and it was fine. I also added some vanilla essence, my aunt often used Polish vanilla sugar sachets.
Additions to the recipe:- chocolate powder, a jar of jam and raisins????? I have not made this combination yet! Will re post if I do!!!

Note: in my 1980's recipe no mention was made of egg sizes, in fact I don't recall anyone ever mentioning the size of eggs, most Polish people kept chickens, so I guess they came in the size laid!! Also the original recipe said 'marg' something I would never use now but everyone did back in the day!






























































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My family table......


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Wednesday, 11 May 2011

La tavola della famiglia

I rarely watch television, I am a radio fiend. I can do something else and listen at the same time, watching the television makes me fidget, or fall asleep. But last week I started to watch a new programme called Two Greedy Italians with Antonio Carluccio and Gennaro Contaldo. These two men, old friends, are set to travel through Italy in search of the country of their youth. The Italy where divorce was illegal, women stayed at home and recipes were passed down from grandmother to mother to daughter.... There was a certain melancholy surrounding Antonio, a longing for family and eating together..... He was saddened by the apparent rejection of cooking by the young Italian women he met, again and again he tried to persuade them to cook...... But this is modern life and I must say it leaves me feeling sad. Not so much a sadness for the lack of cooking but a sadness for the loss of 'la tavola della famiglia' or 'the family table'. It made me recall all the tables of my life, big small, simply or lavishly laid. Lunch or Sunday breakfasts, celebratory meals, wobbly campsite tables, Christmas feasts or a simple pot of tea and cake. The joy of sitting with someone at a table is a joy to behold. We all hopefully have memories of such times. I look back over the years and may not recall the meal we ate but I do recall love, laughter and conversations, people come and gone and thoughts of those that are yet to arrive. I know this for certain, every home of mine will always have its ' tavola della famiglia' and hopefully someone to sit and share a meal with, because as Antonio Carluccio said, he may have fame and fortune but in his heart he longs to share his table with another.............I hope he finds his dream.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0110c5x