Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Summer Sundae days

So, how was it for you? Did everything live up to the hype? Did you  have a wonderful time? I'm talking Christmas here...and yes thank you, it's been lovely.

Now the celebrations  are over....I feel full, flat and flustered  - I really I don't like this time, this hiatus between Christmas and New Year. It's neither one thing or the other...after Christmas day itself, I don't want to look back at the last year -  I want to move on. I want to look ahead to the wonderful possibilities that the New Year could bring....

But I'll make an exception for Summer Sundae, an annual music festival. Tomorrow at 6pm on BBC Radio Leicester,I am looking back at this year's festival ...have a listen to the trailer....

http://audioboo.fm/boos/603802-summer-sundae-trail-2.mp3?keyed=true&amp;source=embed">summer sundae trail 2 (mp3)</a></object>

For three days in August, an alternative world is created in the heart of Leicester ..it's Summer Sundae.I love this....it's got everything I want in a festival....there's always an eclectic line up of  want to see plus new discoveries of exciting new ones. It's a safe,friendly and family friendly festival, with outdoor stages, marquees and the grand old Demontfort Hall which seats over 2,000 people and has flushing toilets.(And that's one hell of bonus at a festival !)

 Set on a compact site where you don't have to walk for miles between stages, there's nice food stalls, and a relaxed atmosphere where people of all ages get together and get on.

It's a yearly  must see for me....and over the years, I've  interviewed bands such as Elbow,Editors,Lemon Jelly, the Magic Numbers,Idlewild, teenage Fan Club, Mr Hudson, the Guillemots, the Pigeon Detectives and so many others in the outdoor backstage area at the back of the main hall or in their dressing rooms for BBC leicester..

Here's last year's review

  Last year I spent two  hours recording with Mumford and Sons for a BBC 6 hour long Mercury Prize  documentary ....but this year I did something different. I just soaked up the atmosphere, talked to lots of festivalgoers, people working at the festival , and some artists who've never appeared at Summer Sundae before...for their stories.

From Sarah and Andy who fell in love at Summer Sundae and hurried back from honeymoon to be at this year's festival, to the four year old at her first festival, to the workers offering HIV tests and results in 60 seconds....there's some lovely stories .....do have a listen darlings....Wednesday 28th December at 6pm on BBC Radio leicester 104.9 FM or you can listen  again on I player for upto one week afterwards.

So, I have been looking back over this year after all....and I can't wait to hear the line up for 2012.
In the meantime, here is the beautiful voice of Newton Faulkner who was at Summer Sundae this year....whether he's playing on the main stage or accoustically by the BBC bus...he wins over his audience by being pitch perfect, funny, and engaging

Friday, 23 December 2011

Happy Christmas days

It's not even 7am and I've been busy.So many things still to do, so many things to remember to do........
Today's list is written....

Yesterday was manic....changed sheets,did lots of washing,did the supermarket shop, bought the tree, delivered the village cards, and Mama arrived for Christmas(my lovely Mum).
In the afternoon there was a change of pace....a lovely quiet time decorating the tree and Mama and I made a wreath to put on the front door ...

It 's amazing what a bit of foliage from the garden, a few pine cones,some cinammon sticks and a bow knicked off an old Christmas present turns out like....it may not be perfect but it's the first one I've made .....

So in the midst of so much to do...why am I sitting here in my jammies writing a blogpost? Well, everyone else is asleep....the prezzies that still need wrapping are in my bedroom and I don't want to wake my OH. Likewise I can't make the soup yet....curried parsip soup is an absolute favourite but even I can't stomach the smell before breakfast!

I used to be indecisive but now I'm not so sure - that's me this morning...I still haven't decided how I'm going to cook the turkey on Christmas Day.Mind you I only decided two days ago that it was going to be turkey....it's not one of my favourite meats.....I'd flirted with the idea of a goose, a three bird roast....but no, we haven't had a turkey for years....so turkey it is.

I definitely know what I'm cooking on Christmas Eve though...because it's a tradition every Christmas Eve...and we all love it. I'm talking gammon.....Nigella Lawson's gammon cooked in coke. Yes...the drink.It's absolutely delicious, succulent and very moreish !It has to be accompanied by a creamy, garlicky potato dauphinoise and roasted vegetables such as courgettes, peppers, mushrooms etc, oh and peas. That's the law.

The funny thing is I can't remember why we started having gammon on Christmas Eve...I know that all the children were tiny...but they demand it every year!

Likewise, there's one film that we have to watch every year at Christmas...and that's National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Yes, we know all the lines, we know when the squirrel comes out of the tree and why Griswold says " Bend over and I'll show you"....but that's what makes it even funnier. And we do laugh a lot....

So do you have a traditional meal on Christmas Eve and what is it? What's the one Christmas film that you just HAVE to watch every year?

Right ...got to go....places to go, people to see, and lots to do! Before I go though....this track always gets me in the mood.....my daughter will be driving home later than usual for Christmas, but my oldest son will be driving home this morning...can't wait to see him at lunchtime....and yes, the curried parsnip soup is his favourite....

Happy Christmas everyone!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Gin fuelled days

A wet, wild and windy week,so in the kitchen where all is calm...and warm, I've been busy.One of the loveliest moments was decanting some raspberry gin I've had hidden away doing it's own thing for about five months.

Summer in a glass.....the most beautifully flavoured raspberry gin.
Made lovingly in the summer with raspberries from the allotment...and tasting ...if I say so myself....bloody gorgeous!

It's a recipe that I was given years ago by Vivienne ,and it's not a just a case of throwing raspberries in a jar and adding sugar and gin. Oh no, there's an extra vital step.....so here's how I did it....

Gorse lane Raspberry Gin

2 pounds of ripe raspberries
1 pint gin
2 pints water
1 pound of sugar.


Place the cleaned fruit and gin in a large ,screw top jar and leave to stand in a warm spot for 4 to 5 days.Shake the jar occasionally.

After 5 days, bring the water to the boil in a large saucepan, add sugar and boil gently for 10 to 15 minutes.

Allow to cool then add to the fruit.Screw the jar lid on tightly and store in a dark cupboard for at least 3 months occasionally turning the jar upside down.(Do be careful darlings - you did screw that lid really tightly didn't you???)

When you're ready , strain carefully through a fine jelly bag and decant into small bottles.

As you will have noticed, I've not actually managed to get out and buy some pretty bottles yet...but even so....the gin looks jolly good to me....

The gin sodden raspberries which were left behind didn't look quite so pretty.

However "waste not want not"being my new recession proof mantra, I decided to use them.It's too cold for a trifle this week, so decided to make a rather alcofrolic raspberry crumble.

I simply made my usual crumble topping, flung it over the fruit..baked and added double cream and hey presto! Wow - What a humdinger of a pudding and just the sort of thing for a cold, wintery night.
The raspberry gin took five months to mature - I wonder how long will it take to drink though? You know, I wish I'd made some sloe gin too....

The sloes are still in the freezer actually so I could make some for when the weather gets nippy next Autumn  , but until then here's a track called the Sloe Gin set from the bright and breezy Bellowhead at the Royal Albert Hall three years ago.

I saw them in August at the summer sundae festival on a nice warm weekend afternoon.They performed a rollicking set, were great fun,and got everyone clapping, tapping their toes and joining in. I dare you to sit stoney faced  and not moving to the music....

Monday, 12 December 2011

Days of saying hello and goodbye

He came, he partied , he left....a week ago.

Yes, the boy who came home at the beginning of November has now gone back to the land he loves- Australia. By working three months on farms, he's got his second year visa.

It seemed such a short visit, but boy, did he pack alot into four weeks.The bunting came out


the first Friday night.his brother, sister and sister's boyfriend. came home,we sat down for a large meal,  drank lots, laughed lots, and danced in the kitchen to Motown, Foster the people and more Motown tracks.For some reason his big brother ended up at one stage wearing a garish hawaiian shirt and a hat, and the boy a bear suit....

Their sister is far more restrained and usually keeps her clothes on....

The four weeks has gone so fast in a flurry of his friends popping into see him, the fridge being constantly ram raided and putting out industrial quantities of budweiser bottles outside for recycling...and so many hugs and chats.

Not seeing him for a year was hard...welcoming him back was wonderful, and saying good bye a week ago today wasn't easy.For any of us..so we had a final Friday session in the kitchen...all back for more music, more food and laughs.

Now all the gang have gone back to their other lives and it's rather quiet at home. Very quiet.Even in the kitchen . In fact, it's been rather a week in more ways than I imagined  so I've cheered myself up by keeping busy. And playing more music - loudly!

Today's track? Well it has to be Foster the people 's "Call it want you want" Great song which is my favourite on the album ....and I'm thinking of  the boy back in Oz who also loves this band.....


Sunday, 4 December 2011

Days when nothing but a leek or Ben Howard will do....

It's nearly dusk, and the cold is intensifying .It's gone past the nippy stage -it's feeling downright parky with ice on the way and snow will be moving in from the north. I've been at the allotment where the lush greens of summer peas , lettuces, beans and courgettes are just a distant memory .

Now, there's only dark brown earth, the muted beige of a number of carpets that I've put down to inhibit the weeds and the only things really still growing are a tiny patch of chard , some swedes and the silvery grey - green leeks standing to attention in slightly uneven rows.

I was stone cold sober when I planted those rows -I promise - and I'm sure they were straight, but looking at them now...they 're cockeyed.How did that happen?

But nothing is ever as it seems in a garden or allotment is it? There's always something that turns up out of nowhere.If you're unlucky they're pernicious weeds , or like a couple of summers ago, some beautiful foxgloves that I certainly didn't plant but love where they've just established themselves.

Last week I cut off the seed heads of the one remaining leek in the allotment from last year.I left it on the windowsill for a week to dry out...and look


Not only is it beautiful...but there will lots of lovely leeks next year too...

It was quite therapeutic sitting at the kitchen table collecting all the seed.....

As a child I hated eating leeks ...leeks a la school lunches meant flaccid , slimy leeks interspersed with gritty bits of earth and smothered in a glutinous "cheese "sauce. The sauce never tasted of cheese though.

Now I adore leeks - their sweetness and their versatility in the kitchen , and the smell of leeks sweating in some butter in a pan must be one of the homeliest and most welcoming smells ever.

Tonight's track....from the wonderful Ben Howard .Every kingdom ,his album, has been on repeat in the car ever since I got it!(Thanks Lucy!xxx)

He sang to me on the way down to Bristol on Thursday and on the way back on Friday.He has such a beautiful voice ..I love his guitar work....and some very clever songs.Some are great to sing along to,but I don't think he would have been too impressed with my efforts accompanying him as I sped up the motorway. Let's put it this way....I don't think we''ll be doing a duet in the near future....