Friday, 29 April 2016

Black Cherry JamTart

A friend of mine likes making jam and at this time of year will be buying huge baskets of cherries to make cherry jam. It's quite a palaver taking out all the pips but it is certainly worth it, her cherry jam is delicious.
Italy has lots of beautiful cherry orchards and when they are thick with white, snowy blossom they attract visitors from far and wide.  The cherries that follow are rich red, glossy, plump and juicy and make wonderful jam.

In Japan cherry blossom time is an annual party. the stages and progress of the blossom is announced like a weather forecast it is of national interest. This passion for cherry blossom in Japan goes back to the 8th century and has a deep, philosophical significance.
  There is even a special word used solely for the viewing of cherry blossom, Hanami. Japanese cherry blossom is bright pink and when it is thick on the ground people can surf through it and have Hunami parties, laying rugs on the carpet of blossom and gazing in wonder at the beautiful display of blossom.

Back to my black cherry jam tart, a great recipe for a Friday, you can offer it to friends over the weekend and if there is any left, have it for breakfast on Monday morning.

Black Cherry Jam Tart

250g flour
125g butter, at room temperature
100g brown sugar
3 egg yolks
1 jar of cherry jam

Put the flour into a large bowl and add the butter cut in cubes.
Mix together until it resembles breadcrumbs.
Add the sugar and then the egg yolks to bind.
Roll out two thirds to line a 22cm pie dish.
Cover with the cherry jam,
Roll out the rest of the dough and cut into shapes to decorate.

Cook at 180 for about 40 minutes.


Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Playing House

You remember as a child how everything seemed magical yet simple?
All you needed to do to make perfume was to crush the rose petals from the garden in a bucket of water, dig a really big hole  in the garden and you'd get to Australia, run like the wind on a broomstick and you'd take off and fly over to see your auntie and give her a nice surprise, clap your hands to make Tinkerbell well again? It took awhile for me to realize things weren't that easy!

In the kitchen I thought all you had to do was mix tasty ingredients together and put them in the oven or cook them nice and slow on the stove, mum makes it look so easy.
At school there was a little house in the corner of the classroom where we could play house and today I made a recipe that brought back that feeling.

It is easy, it is quick and it must be good for you with fresh wholesome ingredients, it makes me think of life, the ingredients for a happy life are few, and simple, you can then spice it up as you wish, so here it is, hope you like it, though I have to say that the verdict in my house is that they prefer my Foccacia Pugliese and Torte salate!

Savoury Cheese Cake, that a child could make!

You will need

one large mixing bowl and a fork

250g flour, plus savoury baking powder
250ml milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
70g grated cheese
40ml olive oil, or corn oil
salt and pepper to taste

Put the flour and baking powder into a large bowl and gradually beat in the milk using a fork.
Add the oil and egg beating gently all the time with the fork so the mixture is smooth and creamy.
Beat well together and then stir in the cheese.

Pour into a baking tin and bake in the oven at 180 for 30 minutes.

You can add chopped olives and then make a decoration on the top with a few anchovies, add herbs and a teaspoon of mustard to the basic mixture. Sprinkle the top with pine nuts or sesame seeds.
When cool cut into slices and serve with a green salad or other vegetables of your choice.
If liked serve with a dash of Worcester sauce.

Here is the Byrds version of this lovely song, Goin' Back also done by Dusty Springfield.
Sometimes it's nice to go back, we need to go back to bring all our happy memories to live again in our hearts. When I make recipes like this I remember that feeling of all being magical and you just had to believe hard enough.

Just a few ingedients

MIx well and pour into a pie dish

Keeping in Touch with Technology

Then is so much discussion now about the generation of  smartphone users and the radical change we have gone through in our communications in the last few years.

For a long time when I came to live in Italy every time my dad's phone bill arrived he would ring up and say that my mum could have flown out to see me, first class, ten times for the amount the phone bill cost. One thing to be thankful to the EU is the low cost of phone bills.

Anyone who has lived away from family and friends knows how important it is to keep in touch. people's attitudes to technology vary. My Romanian friend considers Skype a life saver, every evening she talks and sees her son in Manchester and her daughter in Romania.

I know my dad would have loved it. We would have had him and my mum on our  tablets at every meal, sitting round the table with them propped up on the cereal box. We would have been toasting each other every evening. My mum would have read bed time stories to the children, my dad would have asked if the meal was nutritious enough. On facetime he would probably  peer at me and say  that I was wearing too much make up, my mum would have said that I reminded her of Auntie Betty who never took care of her figure either. In short all the idle conversations that people who care about each have, without all the painful emotion and heart breaking periods of not seeing each other.

My brother, the one you've heard about before, isn't sure about modern technology at all. He has an old-fashioned mobile phone which has six peoples numbers on it. If you send him a text wishing him happy Easter or whatever you might get a reply a week later saying sorry he couldn't find his phone. He prefers talking on a landline sipping a cup of tea and eating a biscuit. the other day he told me he had read an article by the shrink and the Sage in the Financial Times about where all this technology was going.
The gist of it seemed to be what we all know in our hearts anyway. It's great for business and for getting information where it should go in the shortest possible time. Human relations are another matter.
For people that you love already, parents and close family and friends it can only be a wonderful, healing, life enriching link.
For people that have common interests, like bloggers it is a way to get in touch with others that will stimulate and inspire you.

Care and attention are needed as in all areas in life, you must be discerning and prudent as ever all through the ages.

One area where extreme caution is needed is texts or emails between people who you are not sure about. A lot of damage can be done by texts where the tone of voice is absent so you can't really tell how the message is meant.

Once you have had an unpleasant text or email from someone then every time you see their name flash up on your screen you might be overcome with dread. In certain cases you might not even be able to reply.

Relationships need looking after, friendships need nurturing, now with our modern technology it is easier, also easier and quicker to harm, so think before you send a text that could be misunderstood or misinterpreted.

So the rules for modern day technology are the same ones that our mothers told us and their mothers told them..

If you can't write something nice, then don't write nothing

Walls have ears

Eavesdroppers don't hear good of themselves

Keep wise council

Be discerning

Saying sorry never hurt anyone and healed many

Spread goodwill and put kindness in your heart

Don't talk behind people's backs

Friendships need looking after

Well actually some of then I added myself

What are your wise and helpful words for modern technology?

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Speaking to myself

One of the reasons I started to write a blog was because my daughter thought it was a good idea. In fact she set it all up otherwise I would never have done it, because let's face it I thought who on earth would want to read all my waffle and random thoughts?
It's been going on nearly three years now and I love getting all the feedback and belonging to a blogger's world, it makes me feel less alone. The downside of moving abroad for whatever reason is that you discover what it feels like to be alone, to be among people who have no idea who you are. Coming from a family with lots of aunts and uncles and cousins that I loved so much this was a strange situation for me, especially as two of them passed on within six months of my leaving, causing me a life time of regret. I've spent a lot of my life missing loved ones, probably the first and greatest shock was my brother going off to boarding school when I was eight and he was ten. One minute we were rolling around on the carpet and giggling at every silly thing and the next I was on my own, becoming more serious and alone.

I didn't mean to say any of that, it just came gushing out. My blog is an outlet for my pourings out in English. My English speaking friends and I meet up on Fridays for coffee and gabble away in our seventies time warp English, using out- dated phrases like, ' he's a bright spark, it's smashing, she's very keen on him,' mixing up our English with Italian, 'I didn't want to do it for scaramanzia,  your daughter is good at ginnastica' happily understanding each other perfectly and oblivious to grammar mistakes.

The only person I speak to who lives in an English speaking country, well, England, actually, is my brother on Wednesdays. He's a bit in a seventies time warp too though because sometimes even I can teach him a new expression, he didn't know what a jolly was, like me he thought it meant happy and cheerful, but no, I have discovered reading Jane's blog that it means doing something really nice as part of your job, so free.

What I was really going to tell you today is that I lost my voice, it's the sudden change in temperature you see, one minute I was striding round the lake in a tee shirt, revelling in the feel of the warm spring sunshine, the next a breeze came along, aria, the Italians call it and the next day no voice.
Apart from that I felt fine so I went to meet the afore mentioned English speaking friends and thought it would be a nice change for me to have to listen, being as that I love the opportunity to talk in English and feel sometimes that I can tend to hog the conversation. So I learned a lot of things and really enjoyed listening, but I do listen anyway it just might seem that I don't.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Picnic time is here again!

Spring is the perfect time for picnics. Get out into the countryside as soon as you can, all you need is a sandwich and a drink, a rug to sit on so you can gaze up at the sky through the blossom. It's not too hot yet in the middle of the day, so you can have your lunch time break out in the park or the countryside and be back at your desk ready for the afternoon.
Buy a brightly coloured thermos flask for coffee or tea to warm you up in case the weather turns cooler, and if you like try this recipe for a vegetarian picnic loaf that can be made the day before.

Vegetarian Picnic Loaf

200g flour, plus 10g baking powder
120g feta, chopped
50g pitted black olives, chopped
40g pine nuts
4 eggs beaten
2 sundried tomatoes, chopped
80g olive oil
80g milk
30g white wine
salt and pepper to taste

Beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl and add the flour.
Beating all the time add the olive oil, milk and white wine.
Season well with salt and pepper.
Mix in the sundried tomatoes, olives and pine nuts.
Line a loaf tin with oven paper and pour in the mixture.
Sprinkle some more pine nuts on the top

Bake in the oven at 180 for about 1 hour.

If liked serve with Greek yoghurt.

A new thermos flask in shocking pink

Teddy bears' picnic

Everything ready

Gaze up at the sky through the blossom

Friday, 1 April 2016

Oh to be in England

Anyone who grew up in England and isn't in England on the first of April might well catch themselves uttering the first line of one of one of the best known poems of Robert Browning (1812 - 1889).
If you want to impress the people around you, maybe sipping a Prosecco in the sun, you might try and reel off the whole of the first verse. I usually get stuck around the bit about a brushwood sheaf and an elm tree bole, especially if asked to translate it on the spur of the moment. So here it is, in all it's glory and if you try and learn it off by heart, 'they' say it's good for you.

Home Thoughts from Abroad

Oh, to be in England
Now that April's there.
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England - now!

Today I saw a pair of chaffinches and  orchard bough, not sure about an elm tree bole, but I did see lots of tiny bright green new leaves, cherry blossom, hawthorn, magnolia blossom, forsythia, japonica and a whole lot of other signs that clearly say Spring is here.
Magnolia blossom

Male swan on patrol

It takes two , one to sit on the eggs and one to keep watch

California Dreaming, a California cedar