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Cultural Concubine Blog

Neither here nor there…

Tag Archives: norfolk

Fresh, one hour and some scratches later...

Fresh, one hour and some scratches later…

Yes, I know… it has been almost a year. So about time to get back in the saddle.

In the meantime I have been pretty busy.

There are many things to learn in the countryside.

But the most important is simply to live, but more importantly to live simply.
Quite some time ago I wrote with great pleasure about growing up, loving to drink Roosvicee.

Today I made it myself. For free.
(well ok, if you discount the oil used in the AGA, the sugar from the jar and the cost of the water…)
It is nice how the online recipe for Rose hip syrup looks so simple, but isn’t.
It leaves out the experience of one hour or so, picking and cleaning the hips. (if you can find any at all!)
Then to boot, at the bottom of the comments, a reader lamented the poor advice, explaining that temperature and cooking pots had to be significantly different.
(no metal with acid, no boiling vit. C.) Pfff. Fussy.

In a way, the way I made the syrup today shows exactly what I have learnt in the country this year.

It is so important not to leave out the experience and value of actual handy work. (the hour of picking, thorns, fresh air.)
And instead of getting lost in the very exact details (see comments) and ‘have to-s’ you just follow your gut feeling.
Everyone, sing along with me: 
… The cold never bothered me anyway…

Rose syrup done... Fruity and warming. Bring on the zing.

Rose syrup done… Fruity and warming. Bring on the zing.

In the end just I simmered the chopped rose hips in an enamel pan. Strained it once, none of this double filter nonsense… Left it to cool. And have been drinking it all day. Wonderful.



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Catch of the day (minus the other half already eaten)

Catch of the day (minus the other half already eaten)

Over the past few weeks the Plum season has been in full swing, so every day I trundle off to the orchard early in the morning with a dog.

The Victoria Plums are particularly wonderful this time of year and beg to be eaten instantly instead of bundled up in a basket.

Still they do look such a pretty colour all huddled up together, but we digress…

The trick is to pick the ripe ones once a day, otherwise the wasps and other rude grubs get to them.

This morning it was rather damp, so right at the same moment I was thinking about how docile the wasps were today… One stung me!

Right across the jaw!

Right across the jaw!

Right across the jaw… It must have fallen from a plum above me, half drunk from all the sugar and got caught in my collar.


But every country problem comes with its solution: Onion!
(I also tried rubbing a copper coin on it, but that just made me look a bit weird)

So after half an hour with an onion stuck to my face, the burning is a lot less. Sadly though I now smell of the beginning of a stew and I couldn’t stop crying for an hour…

Note to self: Don’t get stung by drunken wasps… wear a hat and tight fitting collar in the orchard.

(Note to self 2: You are not allergic to wasps, if you were you would now be dead….)

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They don’t make ’em like that no more…

Last month I have been clearing out the stables of the small victorian farm behind the house.
Just a general rummage to get rid of general grot and grime, and to generally find out if there was really anything worth conserving.

While sorting through I found many things…
Canisters with strange names, spagettied wirls of leather tack (left behind by an old saddler who used to rent the cottage), old buckets with names of a different house, a tricycle… etc etc. I also found the most amazing old sickle. I decided to clean it up and look after it.
When digging through piles of stuff, finding old tools are like nuggets of gold. You can imagine someone using them, even making them to a clear end.

But one of the things I found, wondered at then left… was a spoon, tied to a long stick…


Here bunny, bunny, bunny…

As it was found amongst many things in a stable, so I imagined it to be a specially made tool to feed horses (?!) or to medicate something at a distance… Bah. I gave up and I moved on to shoveling out the grot on the floor.

Then yesterday, looking at some old country footage from UEA’s East Anglian Film Archive, I finally saw that spoon in action…
(sorry, can’t embed the video here)

It is a short documentary from 1961 about the old gamekeeper at Elveden. The good man is in his 90s… and as you see him gently totter about on the estate, his assistants go about their business, spreading out feed for the game…

…and poisoning rabbits with cyanide…



Only rabbits and rats?

So that’s what’s in that friendly looking yellow bucket called Cymag…

I doubt you would see anything like that in modern day video’s, eh?

(And yes, this is probably a response to my last post on rodents…)


Later addition:

… Off course… how could I forget to add:

Oh the good old days…

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Guess where I am…

Here or there?

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Sticky business...

Some of you may already have heard. But my plan to move to the States has fallen flat.
I guess in the end the whole immigration business turned out to be too sticky for me!

So what do you do when your plans crash and burn?
You come up with a new cunning plan. (thanks Baldrick!)
For now I moved back to the Netherlands, while I am working on new ways to get back to the UK.
In the meantime I tend the garden, marvel at how strange it is to travel BACK and I bake…

I find it is a most soothing activity and it also shows gratitude to the good friends and hosts that I have been staying at.
Being stuck myself I find I have a lot in common with a Tarte Tartin.
Upside down, while knowing that the biggest trick ahead is to flick yourself around back on your feet.

Last week I was staying in Norfolk, plotting my new resurrection, when my godfather and his neighbour coaxed me into making La Tartin a la Savoie…
I had no idea what this really meant, so like I do with everything else I decided to just go with it and try my best.
The original pointers I got were vague:

Just cook the apples in the caramel for an hour and add the pastry before you put it in the oven…

What kind of recipe is that?
Has anyone ever attempted to make caramel on an AGA, let alone an electric stove? And what about quantities?

May be I didn’t see it straight away, but in hindsight this is a true recipe for adventure.
A trail by fire for any person, a true test for any chef!

So after reading through a trillion recipes I decided to just get on with it. (just ask Delia if you want the full story:
First I prepared the short pastry (no ready made seemed to be available in the village):
125 grams of cold butter, cut in small cubes
250 grams of flour (strangely enough I only had self-raising available, but it worked)
mix these two ingredients up quickly with cold hands, (easy in an old house without central heating)
add a table spoon of cold (double or single in my case) cream and
a little cold water until it comes together into a tidy ball,
Wrap neatly in cling film (I absolutely loathe cling film, aaaaargh) leave it in the fridge for a while (more like 2 hours) and in the meantime pondered how to survive the night without burning anything.

Then I took the hearts out of some Bramley apples and Norfolk Beefings/Boffins! (thanks to Drove orchards)

Norfolk Beefing apples, yum!

Just cut enough for all the quarters to line the pan.

Then I started with the caramel.
The recipe was unclear too:
Melt 200 grams of BUTTER and add an equal volume of sugar?!
So I did. Just poured in lashings of lovely raw cane sugar.
Then I watched how it all started to fizzle and bubble
Then I added the apples. rolled them around a bit.
Poor heartless apples, all hung, drawn and quartered. But leave the peel on! You will be grateful for them later!

Luckily Olivia (the neighbour) had come for moral support, and photography of the experience.
The trick about the apples is to make sure to use nice tarty ones that don’t turn to mush instantly. (and don’t bother about cinnamon or anything else)
I had turned down the heat a bit, so after about 20 minutes the caramel apple mixture slowly started to turn a darker colour. The apples had turned peel side up, looking like shiny little gold and red flashed buoys.

In the meantime we had rolled out the pastry, which with some old fashioned slapstick operation involving Olivia a large plate and many hands, ended up on top of the sizzlingly hot apple caramel.

Hop! into the AGA it went! (Oh yes always use a oven proof pan! or if you are cooking on gas use a French Caquelon! Or one of those fancy Le Creuset numbers! as long as you have a large enough plate to flip it out on…)

Burned beauty...

We left it there for 20 minutes to eat the main course.

And afterwards we took it out…

Flipped it…

and oh dear.

A thin black crust covered our work of wonder!
Burnt… left it in too late.

Olivia and I looked slightly stunned, then my godfather cheered, Perfect! Just the way it should be….

Sunshine in a glass...

And I have to hand it to him.
It is true that it worked.
The sweet of the caramel sets off brilliantly against the tartness of the apples, while the slight charred taste adds to the depth of the buttery and mushy flavour in the apple.

May be it could also have been the bottle of 1990 Chateau Coutet that raised our spirits…

Fearful chefs will always serve an undercooked tart.
But in the end I conclude that he best way out of a sticky situation is to just go and burn, full throttle!

To be continued…

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Kipper kipper...

One of the things I know I will miss most in the UK is their breakfasts…
There is one thing in particular that makes a British Breakfast into a Brilliant British Breakfast:


My godfather in Norfolk has introduced me to this brilliant traditional morning feast from the Norfolk shores. Sliced, pickled and smoked whole herrings just have the perfect combination of salty, savoury and greasiness that is perfect for a day in the countryside.

Just have yourself some hand-smoked kippers sizzling from the AGA with a slice of rye toast and butter… and you know this will be a brilliant day.

Alternatively there are Bloaters (smoked whole – the Emperor Charles V erected a statue to the inventor of bloaters from Yarmouth) and Bucklings (without the heads)…

Blub blub bloaters...

Pity though that you will need a robust AGA for preparation, as the smell somehow seems homely and nice when emerging from an enamel pile. If attempted to cook them in a modern kitchen the smell is impossible to subdue. Not even the strongest overdrive driven fume cabinet can prevent the scent from moving into the kitchen drapes…

I will have to see if something similar can be sourced across the pond…
In worst case I will have to make do with soft shell crab…

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