Blog & News / Christmas puddings

TIGERS & STARS

TIGERS & STARS

This week I've discovered how fun making tiny puddings really is. They only need 6 hours in the Aga, as opposed to 8 for the other sizes. 8 hours sleep is a decent stretch, so I can put the others in to steam overnight, then hoik them out again when the Bee trots in the next morning around 5.30am...but tiny puddings is a different game. Now most people would put them in first thing in the morning, and get them out early afternoon. But in fairness most people haven't been breeding at quite such an epic rate for the last few years, and don't have three pre-school aged children to get up, feed, dress and cajole out of the door to wherever we're going that day. So after several attempts at getting this right, my new preferred method is to put the tiny puddings in early evening, set my alarm for 2am, and get them out then. It's much easier to go back to sleep knowing I have a decent amount of time left, rather than lying awake from 4am wondering if the Baby is actually stirring, or just turning over. Happily they're so cute I can forgive them (the puddings, I mean).

I also had my first parents evening this week, to discuss how the Bee and the Bear were getting on at Nursery - which made me feel like a proper grown-up, although clearly I'm not...I had two 15 minute slots booked, and somehow managed to talk for nearly an hour. To be honest, there was wine and pretzels, and I was definitely on the verge of viewing it as a night out. Which I accept is rather tragic. Eventually I was evicted, and came home at 10pm, able to report to Grizzly that the Bear needs to work on using his hands to put his wellies on, and the Bee has more stars than anyone else (she and I have a silent understanding of the star system...every morning she picks something off the floor between the car and the pre-prep door, knowing it will be rewarded with a star because the current theme is 'Autumn', and there are shed loads of acorns and conkers and brown leaves knocking about...).

Right, I peaked earlier than normal this evening so I'm off to set my alarm for 1.30am. Happy days! I shall leave you with a picture of some Wellingtonia cones we found this weekend at Bedgebury Pinetum - I'm hoping if the Bee can regurgitate 'Wellingtonia' when she rocks up tomorrow morning she might be on for a double star! #tigermotherextraordinaire

Read more →

PUTTONYOS & PUDDING

PUTTONYOS & PUDDING

Last night we were visited by a great friend of mine, Emma, who I used to work with in a former life. She brought many gifts with her, and had gone to great lengths to find drinks that were the perfect match for Christmas pudding, and chocolate brownies! She brought Madeira for the brownies, and Tokaji dessert wine for the puddings. Here is the Tokaji Aszu.

I know - I'd never heard of it either, but here are some facts I unearthed, courtesy of Berry Bros.

The Tokaj wine region is found in Hungary, 240 kms north-east of Budapest. The wines were so well regarded by the end of the 17th century that Prince Rakoczi was encouraged to classify the vineyards surrounding the 28 villages of the region, and it therefore has the distinction of being the first classified wine region in Europe.

If you look closely at the label you will notice it has 5 ‘Puttonyos’ – this refers to the sweetness, 2 being the driest, 6 the sweetest. In the very best years they are able to produce wines of 7 Puttonyos, known as Aszu Essencia, deemed to be one of the best dessert wines found anywhere in the world. So there we are, knowledge which could stand you in good stead ahead of a family round of Trivial Pursuit come Boxing Day! We will be quaffing this on Christmas Day with our own pudding, and I will be sure to report back on how it goes down. I’m also conscious I post pictures of bottles of alcohol with alarming regularity in my blogs...however in my defence two have been Christmas pudding related – I’m just keen no-one ends up with a glass of Rioja, or worse, Blue Nun, in front of them come 3pm on 25th December. Think ahead, people.

This week I made the difficult decision to stop doing my regular monthly markets for the time being. I’m still all over the Christmas ones, but it’s become too taxing trying to make muffins into the early hours with 3 very small children, who would love nothing better than to join me at said markets, but in reality are completely feral and not good for business.

Puddings are available to order on the web-site – and they can be sent as presents with a hand-written gift-note for no extra charge. I sent lots last year, and the feedback was great. So be more Emma - if you’ve hit the Christmas jackpot and have an invitation to visit someone else, take the pudding, and something decent to drink with it.

Read more →

HARVEYS & HORSES

HARVEYS & HORSES

So it's the 17th September, and I've made 70 Christmas puddings... I started at the end of August. Even by my own fairly ridiculous standards, it's been an epic few weeks of soaking, grating, zesting, mixing, simmering and steaming. I've launched mini puddings as wedding favours, and offered up own branding for corporate gifts. Parts of our house are no longer recognisable, as every cool and dark corner is filled with hermetically sealed puddings, maturing before their market debuts. It's exciting, but frankly also exhausting. And so this afternoon I took a welcome break from the kitchen to go and work a Sunday lunch shift at the pub. I've been moonlighting there sporadically for a couple of months now - I soon realised that what was initially a temporary stint covering a friend on maternity leave was actually a few hours of adult conversation, watching someone else do the cooking, and a chance to relive my student days of pint pulling in Edinburgh (although I did get fired from that job due an unfortunate mix-up involving changing my flights and forgetting I'd told them I couldn't work that weekend...I was young...and very drunk when I rocked up demanding long vodkas from my boss who thought I was overseas).

The Volvo still regularly refuses to start, so I took Grizzly's car instead. Ancient, but reliable. I had to park against a hedge, so could only get out of the passenger side, which involved a lot of clambering over things and generally unladylike behaviour. After four hours of roast dinners and pints of Harveys I skipped back to the car, recharged and ready to face the pudding basins and children again, delighted with myself for choosing the car that never fails to deliver. Except it wouldn't start. Because I'd gone out of the passenger door the alarm telling me the lights were on didn't sound, and because I normally drive a Volvo I never have to turn them on, let alone off again. After a brief sob into the steering wheel, wondering whether any other driver has had so many disappointments when turning a car key, I stomped back to the pub to announce what an utter cretin I am. Happily Lovely Bob came to my rescue with jump leads.

And as another week of baking dawns, I pause to reflect on how long it will be before the Volvo next leaves me high and dry. Happy times. Horse and carts all round, I say. Here's me in ten years time.
Read more →

LITTLE RED ROOSTER

LITTLE RED ROOSTER

The Bee turned 4 today, so we had a family excursion to a farm near us. We're lucky to have a few open farms nearby, but this one has pony grooming, sheep racing, and vast amounts of cider and perry (the National Collection no less). I sent Grizzly off to buy some during the picnic, and he returned with a large plastic bottle of Little Red Rooster. Obviously we had nothing to drink it from, short of emptying out the Baby's breadstick pot, or beaker, so he returned for some taster glasses. They were minute, so my dream of relaxing with a glass of cider during our picnic turned into what must have looked to the casual observer like a student drinking game of endless urine-coloured shots.

Quick reminder for anyone who missed it - my Christmas pudding order book is now open, and until midnight you can pre-order one with 10% discount. I've been stirring and steaming all week. It did occur to me that if I make the same wish every time I stir a bowl with pudding mixture in, that's a lot of wishes. If you see me posting about my new Aston Martin come the New Year you'll know it worked.

I came across this tipple in the Farm Shop - seems I'm not the only one thinking of the Festive season already.
Read more →

Networking & The Notebook

You may have spotted on my posts over the last week or so that I recently signed up to The Notebook, which is a fantastic innovation by an amazing local lady called Oana Liliac. In essence, she is producing a 2018 diary, featuring local businesses and entrepreneurs, who have an opportunity to tell their story, and inspire others, via a page within the diary. 5,200 copies will be distributed in the local area. I met Oana at a networking meeting. I'd never been to a networking event before, and had no idea what to expect. But the meeting coincided with Grizzly being at home to look after the kids, having no family car, and it raining sideways. I explained how important it was for the business that I spent 2 hours in a local pub drinking tea, and off I skipped. Entirely unprepared. I arrived in Grizzly's ancient clapped out Corsa, had nothing to write with, or on, and took no business cards with me. I happened to find the correct number of cards bent in my purse, and someone took pity on me and handed me some paper and a pen. And it was actually really inspirational. The other ladies had some great ideas about how I could grow the business and it was fascinating listening to other people talk about how they were growing theirs. Which is how I met Oana and heard about her project. She came round to the house a couple of days ago to take my picture for the page (she is actually a portrait photographer when she's not doing The Notebook). Obviously the children behaved appallingly and I wondered how anyone with pre-school children ever manages to run a business from home. Clearly they're better at child raising, or perhaps have less feral genes.

In other news, we've got the car back - predictably they couldn't find anything wrong with it. So I expect very soon I'll be regaling you with tales of being stranded in the middle of nowhere on my own with all the children, and lovely Brett being too terrified to come and help me again...

On the plus, we are about to embark, Volvo willing, on our second break of the summer, to stay with Granny and Grandpa in Yorkshire. There shall be no baking for 2 weeks. But the brandy is poised for our return, and it's straight into Christmas pudding production for the next 3 and a half months! Order book opens 1 September, and they will be live on the web-site by then as well.
Read more →