Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Cueing up

David W Robinson remarked on his Facebook page yesterday that the BBC's subtitles "aren’t perfect, but every time the commentator mentioned Gabriel Agbonlahor, the subs translated it as "Gabriel upon the whore"."

After considering the possibilities of "Jose Olazabal"--"Josie Holes the Ball" being the cleanest I could come up with--I remembered the utter filth perpetrated for weeks on end by the BBC's snooker commentators. A few years ago I cobbled together (pun intended) this little effort: First published by Lighten up Online, December 2010

Cueing Up

he's going for a colour
got a bit of a kick
after that double kiss
it's a touching ball

waggles lead to
a good wrist cock
and follow through
oh that was a snatch

it's very tight
on the bottom cushion
he's trying one leg on the bed
should play a deep screw

he can't quite keep that foot on the floor
he'll need the extension
and after all that
he'll have to go for a long rest

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Christmas Gateau Recipe

Ok - having been asked, here is -ta-da- my family's Christmas Chestnut Gateau recipe. My mum first made it for my grandparents' Golden Wedding in (I think) 1957 - and she got it off a BBC TV cookery programme. We've made it every year since. 

No, it's got nothing to do with Mary Berry or the Hairy Bikers. I *think* it's Austrian. No baking required!

1 tin of plain chestnut puree, about 1lb / 450grams (not the sweetened kind)
8oz butter / 250g
4oz icing sugar / 120g
(The original recipe suggested equal quantities of all three, but I find that too sweet. It also had a raw egg yolk in it, which I don't use.)
2 packs of "boudoir" sponge finger biscuits (ie, 40-50 of them; buy more rather than less because you can always use them up!)
10fl. oz strong black coffee / 0.5 pint, 250g (ish)
1 tablespoon of plain cocoa
1 tablespoon of brandy

1/2 pint of Double cream / 250g (ish)
Warm and whip the butter, beating in the icing sugar, chestnut puree, brandy and cocoa, and a tablespoon of the strong coffee. You should have a stiffish but spreadable mixture.

Line an 8 inch diameter loose based / spring case baking tin with cling-flim, enough to cover the base, come up the sides and lap over to the opposite side.

Pour black coffee into a 6 inch diameter or so shallow dish or plate. Dip the sponge fingers individually, quickly in and out, wetting both sides, and lay them closely side by side
, in the tin, all pointing in the same direction. Set the sugary side upward. If you start with the first ones pointing at the join in the tin you'll have a reference point for the direction of the next layer. When the layer is complete, use 1/3 of the chestnut mix to make a filled layer, level it and turn the tin through 90 degrees so the next layer of sponge fingers runs across the first rather than the same way.

Repeat till you have 3 layers of filling and 4 of sponge fingers, putting the last layer of sponge fingers sugary side down.

Complete wrapping the gateau, using the cling film that's been hanging outside the tin. Put a shallow plate on top and press down gently to consolidate the cake.

At this point you can freeze and store the cake for a month or more; but you can use it after a few hours in the fridge.

To finish:  about 1/2 pint of Double cream, and a little of the icing sugar, strong coffee, and cocoa

Unwrap the top of the cake, set a serving plate on top, upside down, then invert both so the cake ends up on the plate, then remove the cling film entirely. 

Whip the double cream with a spoonful of the coffee and a teaspoonful of icing sugar to soft peaks (not stiff, because the sponge layers will absorb some of the moisture). Coat the cake with it. If you've got sponge fingers left over, halve them and press them against the outer edge of the cake so they stand upright like a fence (they help with measuring serving portions!) Dust the top lightly with sifted cocoa.

Servings -  approx 12 2-finger segments or fewer if you're greedy like us!

*** NOTE 1 - the original recipe used a pound of chestnuts rather than a tin of puree - you boil the chestnuts, peel and skin them, then blitz them and push them through a sieve. The texture is fluffier, dryer and not so solid as the tinned puree.

***NOTE 2 - Boudoir sponge fingers are also, I think, known as ladyfingers. However, I've made this recipe successfully with a couple of home-made fatless sponge cakes, split into half inch thick layers, and with commercial "flan" cases.


Sue's historical/humorous/horsey novels and other books are available on http://www.jackdawebooks.co.uk/ 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Bumble Bees

A queen mistook the dimness of our house,
but rescued with a glass and cardboard
she nested in the kitchen steps
where we passed by a dozen times a day,
and her furry children zigzagged out
to the bean rows in the garden,
the peas and plums and brambles,
the wild strawberry cascading down the wall.
Black sisters, fumbling white clovers in the pasture
or the purple heather on the moor,
they droned home bulked with pollen,
unloaded, flew another mission,
though the cat lay in wait to bat them,
and the swallows swooped on them,
and our grandchild tried to stroke them
when we barged through their busy airways.
They never stung. At the summer’s end
they just fell, all spent, leaving
one queen to autumn, winter, spring.
Yes, we might still have had a harvest
without their peaceful help; but only of a sort.


Sue Millard's poetry collection, Ash Tree, is available from Prole Books and her novels can be found via her web site, Jackdaw E Books.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

On the first day of Advent my true love gave to me

He's been working towards this for the last three weeks.

It started with comments over the small ads in the local paper.

"That big CRT TV's still for sale."

"What make was the one we put in the holiday cottage?"

"He's dropped the price."

"Looks like he hasn't had any offers."

Well, maybe it was four weeks.

Anyway, when I came back from choir rehearsal yesterday the paper was folded inside out to the small ads for TV and Radio, and this morning he pootled off in the car and came back looking rather chuffed.

I know that face.

I started wiping down the cabinet on which our present small flat-screen TV stands.

"You needn't rush," he said. "I'll ask Chris to give me a lift with it when he comes to look the sheep tomorrow." (note: housekeeping is not one of my skills. I just have a nose for jobs that are better done around electronics which I can move by myself, than around those that need two fit men).

OK. Replaced small TV and cables. Returning to kitchen with damp cloth, walked past mother in law's display cabinet. Thought it ooked a bit dusty. Wiped all shelves and objets d' - well, not quite Art, but you know, too shiny to give away to the charity shop. Some tiny toys and coloured pebbles that belonged to Naomi, some vases with nice lines, a couple of ceramic birds, a set of Concordabilia including a model of the plane.

Opened the centre cupboard, just out of curiosity. Who knows what might be inside your mother in law's drawers--no, don't answer that. We inherited the cabinet when she moved to the care home. The centre bit is a booze cupboard, glass shelves, mirror back. Empty. I turned the damp cloth around and gave it a consolatory wipe, just so it didn't feel left out. And I thought: that's a useful space. And more convenient than the sideboard.

G actually keeps his wine in the larder, which is a nice steady temperature, but there are odd bottles of spirits lurking in the sideboard. I thought: I'll shift them to the cabinet--thus perhaps removing the need to lock the sideboard against small grandson's curiosity.

So I found the keys of the sideboard and did some exploring.

Well, I recognised G's trio of unopened Christmas-present malt whiskies, but who knew there were so many bottles of gin in there?  A brand, moreover, that isn't sold locally? Or sherry, that I only buy for the elderly? Or brandy, that G doesn't drink on account of sickening himself with it when he developed a tooth abscess on a Friday and the dentist couldn't see him till Monday?

Like I said, who knows what's in your mother in law's--whatnot. To be fair, his brother and brother's partner were big gin drinkers.

I moved the spirits to the display cabinet. There still seemed to be a lot of room to spare, including a glass shelf.

I attacked the sideboard again and clinked out all the glasses. A majority of MiL's collection have gone already to charity shops and there are possibly a few out in the shed, their future role as yet unassigned, but in the sideboard there was one heavy glass decanter I'd never seen before and another beautifully engraved with the west front of Westminster Abbey.  And then--who ever drank anything from glasses two inches tall that you can't get your nose into? Apart from medicine? I found five of those, smoky brown thimbles, very 1970s. And two titchy Cristal d'Arques pots that I'm sure were designed for hairgrips and stuff on your dressing table rather than for drinking out of.

I should add that I reached a count of eight before I found a pair among anything that belonged to us. I discarded the cheap, the unmatched and the impractical (the smoky brown thimbles). I was going to chuck the solo brandy balloon too but when I flicked it with a fingernail it sang such a beautiful note that I instantly re-adopted it. Thereafter I also got rid of the glasses that didn't try to sing.

Hot water with vinegar, and a glass-cloth, reduced the remainder to roughly the same variety of clean.

Among other things (as above) I've kept:

...seven half-pint highballs,
six vine-etched glasses, 
five tumbler things, 
four Jennings mugs,
three crystals,
two pint pots,
and a shot-glass for Famous Grouse.

The display cabinet is clean. The sideboard, sort of (it's still locked--not all the malt whisky boxes fitted in the cabinet.)

The TV is still outside. Who knows what tomorrow may bring?


Sue Millard's books wander around humour, history and horses. They can be found on her web site, http://www.jackdawebooks.co.uk

Her poetry pamphlet "Ash Tree" was published in August 2013 by Prole Books.