Category Archives: seasonal

First Day to Christmas – My Diary

Here is my day, December the first is the day when Christmas really begins for me. I have been busy. I woke up like a little child because Christmas is here. So impatient – like a little child waiting for morning on the real day.

So up early to deep clean the hallway upstairs and down, then went for a 1 hour walk with a friend – weather forecast was a bit marginal, but we did 4 miles in just under an hour – not bad for 2 old(ish) ladies who natter away.

Then it was to unpack the Christmas decorations and begin to work out the lights. First to get all the decorations out, the Nativity Scenes and the LIGHTS. What a mess!

I love Christmas lights, but why are they such a muddle? I always try to pack it all the bits away in an organised way, BUT – the lights are always tangled….. ugh. There must be an easier way for lights.

My big tree is up – 12 rows of different branches, all individually colour coded and separate with 8 branches per row and 14 rows and then a big tree topper part which also has to be worked and bent open – you have to be there to get it.

Done it and then the lights are on.  Big tip – always check the lights are still working before you begin to set them, and (after fighting to untangle the wretched things), string from the bottom of the tree with the lights lit – you can see the effect. Twirl them around the tree so you know you won’t run out of lights before you get to the top and then adjust, fiddle and set the lights between the branches of the tree.

Anyway, my main tree is 8ft tall and I am now happy with the lights, with 2 strands of lights (LED of course). Put the tree up in the kitchen, the upstairs tree is up and lit, and my Vintage tree is almost done. Have not started on the tabletop tree in the dining-room yet.

In between all of this I went shopping and bought 2 more Nativity Scenes, which I will share later. However, today my photo to share is that all my trees are up, the lights are all working and installed, (even the outside lights which are very minimal – I really would like little deers frolicking and hedgehogs humming, but I don’t live in this house alone, so we have a demure, and sedate outside effect).

I have my very plastic retro wreath on the front door – very kitsch and very, very perfect) and the first few decorations are in place.  Done my first day. Much more to do tomorrow.

I will let you know more tomorrow on my Countdown to Christmas.

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Pumpkin Fritters Recipes

Happy Halloween to everyone. Today I thought I would share my recipe for Pumpkin Fritters 0 a very different kind of thing.

This is a South African thing – in my family we eat it with our main course, normally with chicken or lamb, even though the fritters are coated with sugar and cinnamon. Here in England I think that it would be preferred as a sweet dish. Either way, they are simply delicious, sort of like a pancake. At this time of year they are warming and wholesome, and so easy to make.

Pumkin Fritters Recipe from Calico Living


500g of cooked pumpkin. (See my notes on how to cook the pumpkin)
200g plain flour
1 teaspoon of nutmeg
2 teaspoons of baking powder
A pinch of salt
1 teaspoon of soft brown sugar
1 egg
Sunflower oil for frying

For dusting
1 cup of granulated sugar
2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

How to cook the pumpkin
I prefer to use butternut squash. Clean and peel the squash and scoop out the pips and stringy bits from the . (Did you know you can wash the pips and lay them on paper towel to dry.Then roast them in the oven at a high temp – say 200 deg C in the oven. Delicious.)
Cut the flesh into large clumps and steam in a colander or steamer until very soft. Allow to cool in the colander before using, so the excess liquid drains away.

In a mixer, add the cooled pumpkin mixture, the dry ingredients and lastly the egg. Mix well. You may need to add more flour or liquid – you need to get a thick, but sloppy mixture that is fairly smooth.

Mix the cinnamon and sugar together in a small bowl.

Heat a 5 mm layer of oil in a heavy frying pan. Test the oil with a small drop of the pumpkin mixture. If it starts fizzing, it is hot enough and ready for cooking.

Drop a heaped tablespoon of the mixture into the frying pan, using a smaller spoon to help get it off the larger spoon and flatten the mixture a bit. Drop more fritters into the oil until the pan is full. Keep the heat steady – cook for about 3 minutes on one side, before flipping and squashing the fritter flat.

Drain on paper towel and then drop into the cinnamon and sugar mixture and coat thoroughly.

Makes about 12 – 16 fritters.

Serve warm with slices of lemon. Be brave and try it with a savoury dish as one of your vegetables.

Enjoy and let me know how it tastes.

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How to Make the Perfect Country Apple Pie

At this time of year there are apples everywhere you look. Roadside stalls groan under the weight of the fruit and the prices are simply silly. The area where I live has acres and acres of apple trees so it almost seems pointless growing them in your own garden, although I have to admit that I do have a small apple tree and there is an enormous basket of fruit waiting for cooking. There is something really pleasing about picking your own.

I bought 2 bags of apples from a stall along the road while out walking – I know, I know – I have apples, but these looked divine. One bag held the classic Bramley, the other bag had apples that were slightly pink fleshed – I think Albert Etter type – but not sure – my pie filling is a lovely colour.

Here is my recipe which in my mind is absolutely perfection. I don’t add any sugar to the pie filling – so the finished result is very homely and tart.

Country Apple Pie

The Filling 

Preparing the fruit for my apple pie means cooking it first. Bramley’s have a tendency to foam to nothing if cooked for too long, while the other apples were a mystery, but they were extraordinarily pink inside – probably really an eating apple

  • You will need no more than 1.8kg of fresh apples, although the quantity you use will vary because of the core size, water content and so on.
  • Peel, core and cut into large chunks.
  • Steam the apples gently for about 10 minutes or until a fork just goes through them – I use a double steamer and do a small amount of fruit at a time else the fruit at the bottom dissolves while the fruit on the top is still firm.
  • Set aside to cool while you make the pastry.

Biscuit Pastry 

This recipe is derived from a family recipe. It is a soft, fall apart type of pastry that is light and a little bit spongy – almost cake like.

240 g Flour
100 g Sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Salt
100 g Butter, chilled and cut into chunks
2 Eggs

  • Preheat the oven to 220 deg C.
  • Mix the dry ingredients together.
  • Rub the butter into the dry ingredients until you have small flakes.
  • Lightly beat the 2 eggs in a separate bowl and add to the mixture, mixing quickly and smoothly working the dough gently until it is smooth and even. It should be fairly soft and light. Do not over knead. Let the dough rest for about 10 minutes before using.

Making The Pie

  • Place the dough onto a lightly floured board and roll out gently until about 4 – 5 mm thick. Don’t worry if it breaks, you can patch it easily.
  • Grease a deep pie dish 200 mm (8″) wide and about 40 mm (1 1/2″) deep with butter. Cover the dish almost entirely with the pastry, patching any breaks and holes – the pastry will want to fall apart. .
  • Poke some holes, with a fork, in the base of the pastry and bake at 220 deg C  for 10 minutes. Turn the oven down to 200 deg C.
  • Let the base rest for a few minutes before adding the filling. Cover the top of the pie with the remaining pastry and then stab with a fork until you have a rough chunky appearance. Crimp the edges of the pie.
  • Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until browned. Cover the pie with tin foil, turn the oven down to 170 deg C and bake for another 10 minutes.
  • Let it cool slightly before serving with ice-cream or cream, or both! Enjoy.


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Lamb on the Barbeque

It’s that time of year again. I love it when it begins to warm up and Spring really gets underway. Somehow this year it all seems to have taken much longer for the weather to warm up properly – enough for me to either cook or dine Alfresco. 

This weekend was not the first time I have barbecued this season, but it was the first of my favourite menus – Leg of Lamb. 

Barbequed Lamb

Many people are really quite afraid of doing something like this on a BBQ, but really it is quite easy. (My neighbour insists that it cannot be done…. makes me laugh!)

The trick is to build the fire properly. I always start the fire with charcoal and newspaper. I dislike firelighters, although I do often use them. Make a small mound of charcoal with scrunched up newspaper in the centre of the BBQ. For lamb I use a kettle type BBQ and open the vents underneath so as much air gets to the centre fire. Once the fire is well started add more charcoal. 

Build a Fire

At this stage the fire will be really smoky and I add the leg for a short while to take advantage of the smokiness. Firstly I cut it along the bone, deep down, and I stuff a few bits of rosemary into the slit. Some people advocate removing the bone, but I never do. On the other side of the lamb I make a few small slits and stuff a few bits of rosemary into them. Don’t overdo the rosemary. Lamb has a very distinctive flavour, and I really cannot see the point of over-flavouring something that already tastes brilliant. I do however rub salt all over the meat. 


Next I add several sticks of rosemary straight on top of the coals. I then pop in the leg of lamb, away from the coals and  close the lid of the BBQ with the vents nearly closed.  I leave the meat for about 20 minutes, and then remove it. 

I then shuffle the coals around so that they all burn and when they have cooled quite a bit – they no longer glow bright red until you blow on them – then it is time to add the meat back. Close the lid again for a good hour, turning it often. 

I don’t like lamb rare, but also not over-done. Test it with a metal spike. When the liquid runs clear it’s done. Allow the meat to rest for about 15 minutes before serving. 

I served this with two salads – a tabbouleh and a three-bean salad. For hot sides I made Brussels sprouts in a cheese sauce (browned in the oven) and corn-on-the-cob also from the BBQ and bathed in butter. 

Smacking delicious.  

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