Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Day 30 - Home-Made Drink Recipe

Elderflower and Blackberry Drink

A couple of Christmases ago I watched a TV programme called (I think) "The Twelve Days of Christmas" with Alexander Armstrong and Giles Coren. It was a bit dull, unless you find the sight and sound of two posh blokes pontificating about wines and liqueurs exciting. However, they did feature one non-alcoholic drink which I thought sounded nice. I had to watch the right bit a few times on Catch-Up to get the right ingredients as there was nothing on the programme website.

It's now become a staple of our Christmas lunch.

Of course it doesn't have to be a Christmas drink. You could make it in the autumn when blackberries are in season. I used frozen blackberries that I had picked a few months previously.

1/2 cup of elderflower cordial
Juice of one lime
1 litre of soda water
Handful of blackberries
Handful of mint leaves (bruised)


1. Put all the ingredients in the order above in a large glass jug.

2. Serve with ice.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Day 29 - Interesting Coastal Snippet

When I was a boy I used to spend summer holidays with my grandparents who lived in Bexhill-On-The-Sea (due to it's older demographics Bexhill is affectionately known as 'God's waiting room') on the south coast. Sand was in short supply on the beach. Like much of the Sussex coast it's mostly shingle. These were holidays when I was on my own a lot. I didn't mind. I used to love sorting through the stones hunting for fossils and sea glass. 

A few years ago I read a book called 'The Pebbles on the Beach' by Clarence Ellis. A wonderful exploration of the geology of shingled shores. 

From this book I learnt some stuff about wave movements that I thought I would share.

There are three important terms to remember when watching waves.

The swash is the rushing water driven up the beach after the wave has broken.

The backwash is the opposite. It's the seawater returning to the sea after the swash has reached it's end.

This is the stretch of wind-swept water over which waves travel. The longer the fetch the bigger the waves and the longer the swash and backwash.

If the slope of the beach is gentle then the decrease of speed of the swash will be slower and so it will travel further up the beach. If the slope is steep then the backwash will be faster. On a shingle beach the backwash will drag material down so that the slope becomes gentler. The stronger swash will then push that same material up the beach and make the slope less steep.

If you watch waves on an open beach then you'll notice that the waves are not parallel with the shore line. This is because the prevailing wind rarely blows at ninety degrees to the coast so waves come in at an angle. The swash will travel at the angle of the wave. However, the backwash travels back in a straight line. This creates something called 'longshore drift'. It describes the movement of sand and pebbles on the beach.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Day 28 - A Parlour Game

Parlour Games were very popular in middle-class Victorian households - especially at Christmas time. Here are two parlour games 

Up Jenkins

Traditionally this game is played with a sixpence although a 1p piece also works. 

Two teams sit at opposite sides of the table. Team A have their hands underneath the table and pass the coin between them. When somebody from Team B says “UP JENKINS” then everybody from Team A puts their clenched fists on the table.

Team B now has to work out who has the coin by giving one of three instructions:

Creeply Crawly Team A moves their fingers forward in a crawling motion

Wibbly Wobbly         Team A have to turn their clenched fists over for a moment and then back again.

Flat on Table         Team A have to put their hands flat on the table

Now Team B must guess who has the coin, but beware somebody on Team A might be bluffing!

If Team B guess right then it’s their go. If they get it wrong then Team A starts again.

Alphabet Minute

Have everyone write a general topic of conversation down on a slip of paper, along with a letter of the alphabet (e.g. Shopping F; Holidays P etc.). 

Pick a topic out of a hat. Now start a conversation with one another about the topic. The catch is that they have to begin each sentence with a letter of the alphabet following each other, beginning with the letter written in the slip of paper. They must follow the conversation through the alphabet. The idea is to get back to the original letter.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Day 27 - Foraging Tips

I thought I'd just give you a heads-up on some foraging resources to help you with your wild food gathering. The elderflower season has just finished and, because of the weather, it hasn't been the best of years. There simply wasn't enough blossom around. I only managed to make a three litres of cordial. That'll be enough for the year but no surplus for gifts/bartering. Sorry about that.


Richard Mabey Food for Free 
First published in 1972 and riding on the back of the whole self-sufficiency, back-to-the-land zeitgeist thing of the early 1970s. It's been regularly updated and has always been in print. It goes through just about every food in the UK that can be foraged both on land and in the water (both fresh and sea). If you have to have one book on foraging then this is it. Get the pocket-sized edition so that you can carry it around with you when you're out and about.

Richard Mabey is a prolific writer on nature and the countryside and I'm sure that I'm close to having read every one. I can recommend Nature Cure, Beechcombings:The Narrative of Trees and his biography of Gilbert White. 

Adele Nozedar The Hedgerow Handbook: Recipes, Remedies and Rituals
I tend not to carry this book around with me as it's a bit too big and heavy but it's still one of my favourite foraging books. It isn't as wide-ranging as Food for Free as it is only about plants from the hedgerows of Britain. Given for most of us this is the bulk of our foraging then it's a good book to have. It delves into the folklore of edible plants and explores the medicinal qualities of each plant. The recipes are fantastic and that's what I tend to use it for.

Vivien Weise Cooking Weeds
I got this as a Christmas present from somebody who knows me too well. Somebody once said that weeds are just plants that are in the wrong place. It's perhaps for that reason that weeds are not often used for food. Anyway, there are some great recipes in this book like Nipplewort Soup (you'll need your Richard Mabey to identify this). I have to admit I've only tried a couple of recipes from Cooking Weeds but I love looking through it and planning to try some of the others.


Every article on foraging published in the Guardian.

This blog on urban foraging is a real joy. Lots of tips on identifying and locating plants plus cooking advice.

One of a series by TV bushcrafter Ray Mears on wild food and hunting and gathering. Lots of foraging tips. Mears is not a vegetarian so there is an occasional bit of catching and eating wild animals. That's not a problem for me but I thought I'd give you advance warning.

A good friend and excellent storyteller wrote a series of articles on foraging for the 'Smallholder' magazine.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Day 26 - Favourite Comedy Clip

Trigger's Broom

'Only Fools and Horses' was a 1980s British TV sitcom featuring the escapades and mishaps of a South London market trader (Del Boy) with his brother (Rodney) and various other characters. This includes Trigger, the main character in this clip. Trigger was, to put it politely, a bit slow on the uptake. I always thought that was the ironic origin of his nickname. I recently found out it was because people thought he looked like a horse.

The other person at the table is Boysie - a bit of a dodgy used-car salesman.

This clip is often used by philosophers as a perfect example of the Ship of Theseus Paradox. If an object has parts replaced then is it the same object? Take, for example, an Ancient Greek ship. It's made of pieces of wood, cloth, leather and rope. After a while an oar is broken and is replaced. Are we now looking at the same ship? I guess most people would say yes. Now fast forward so that every single piece of the ship has been replaced perhaps more than once. Is that the same ship as the original? If you say no, then you have to decide at what point the transition from original ship to a new ship happens. Is it after 50% of the ship being replaced? How about 40%?

Anyway, here it is. Look out for the bloke serving up food with a fag hanging out of his mouth. Those were the days.

Triggers broom from Lisa Ledbury on Vimeo.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Day 25 - Playlist of Film Music

Like my playlists of classical and folk music this is not my 'top ten' of pieces of film music but simply ten pieces of film music that I enjoy and I think stand alone as extraordinary pieces of music. You'll see the film, composer and then the music title. The link is through the music title and will take you either to Spotify or YouTube.

James Horner

The Chemical Brothers

Yann Tiersen

Fiddler on the Roof
Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick

John Kander and Fred Ebb

James Horner

Local Hero
Mark Knopler

Jon Hopkins

The Great Escape
Elmer Bernstein

North By Northwest
Bernard Hermann

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Day 24 - Norfolk Recipe

Norfolk Shortcakes

I've noticed a rise in TV programmes about regional recipes and cooking. Rick Stein, the Hairy Bikers and good old Hugh F-W have travelled the length and breadth of the country finding out about local foods. Without getting all deep and philosophical this might be regarded as a counterweight to the increasing (and also welcome) internationalisation of our food. Let's celebrate both of them.

Norfolk doesn't quite have the richness and variety of some regions such as the West Country or Yorkshire but there are a few dishes that you will see in some Norfolk restaurants and tea rooms. If you're a vegan then just use the right kind of margarine.