Tuesday, 23 September 2014

The First World War & The Helpful Heffalumps

As we creep ever closer to many First World War Centenary markers, there have been some fascinating snippets in the news of late. I am interested in all things Great War - but especially the female role and the more unusual stories. One in particular grabbed my attention last week and made me exclaim “..how have I never know this? Why was I not taught this as school??!...” and to then promptly tell everyone in earshot about what I had discovered. And you lovelies are next.

With the calling of all horses to the front - from the coach pullers to the corn transporters – one of the areas hit was the vibrant, hardworking world of the Circus. Horses across the land were soon requisitioned by the army and the performing circuit’s soon drew to a halt. Many male members of the menageries joined up and left their companies. Labourers in the towns and cities could not be found and in 1917 many fairgrounds ceased to trade. However - there were still fully trained and hardworking animals to be tended to.

With their immense pulling power, elephants were handed over to fill the hoofs that the horses had left behind. On a small farm, near to one of our favourite picnic spots , just under 100 years ago, you could well have seen a benevolent pachyderm helping to plough a field. Or perhaps hefting hay with ease over their strong backs with the quick flick of an inquisitive trunk.

Further North, the odd vision of an elephant wearing leather boots would have been common place. Used to pull munitions and scrap metal, the boots were to help protect her feet from any shards of steel.

Around the South, you may very well have spied a Land Girl in all her full skirted uniform trying to guide a big ol' heffalump along in a straight line. If you would like to see this now (ooh! the technology!) then head on over to British Pathe and have a look-see.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Sun Soaked Woo

Oh, the Woo, the Woo. 

She is so very old now and she reminds me of a very special, if a bit threadbare, beloved toy. She spends her day sleeping, meeowing -  to me, but mostly to herself - threatening a fur ball, sleeping some more, eating some more and pestering me for anything I have on my plate.

In the past week she has so far eaten: a bran flake, a piece of apricot, a bit of scrambled egg and some lettuce. She is not phased by the fact that it did not come from a pouch -  all she cares about is the taste.

However, in her ripe old age of, we would wager, 16 years old, she loves none of this compared to her adoration of the sun. 

Never in the morning, only in the afternoon, you can find her, spark out, on the end of the bed. In her deafness, you do not have to worry yourself with waking her, unless you blunder into the edge of the bedstead with your thigh. She will not be disturbed by your effing and jeffing - just by the movement.

She might open one eye and spy you with mixture of love and hatred. Her slumber was interrupted (scowl) but she still loves you (purr). 

At this point she usually stretches out and goes straight back to sleep. I feel so guilty if she gets up and, sun drunk, totters over to me. 

I much prefer to let her get on with her daily soak.

Friday, 29 August 2014

WW2 Bakery ~ Vinegar Cake

How could I not try something that sounds so, well, unappetizing? 

I went out and bought some Sarsons especially for the occasion. Isn't it odd buying one of those cupboard staples when you run out? Like, salt. I always really seem to notice when I buy these bits. Or am I just weird?

This cake-u-lar grabbed my attention straight away. Vinegar? In a cake? Saaaay whaaat?

Although it felt a little odd tipping it into milk instead of on me chips, I have to say that this bake is really rather nice.

170g self-raising flour (or plain with 2 tsp on baking powder added)
90g sugar
90g margarine
1 tbsp vinegar
1/4 pint of milk
1/2 tsp bicarb of soda
90g mixed dried fruit
(you can round these 90gs up to 100gs - I did with no adverse effects)

  • Preheat oven to 350F / 180C / GM4. Grease & floor or line an 8" cake tin
  • Cream together the fat and the sugar in a large bowl. Sift the flour into a separate bowl
  • Pour the milk and vinegar into a bowl or jug, add the bicarb and whisk together. It should begin to froth. The more air added -  the better
  • Mix the froth into the creamed sugar and marg, add the dried fruit (I used raisins as that's all I had)
  • Pour into your baking tin and bake for about 45-55 mins, depending on your oven

With no eggs, the alchemy of the vinegar and Bicarb of Soda really does work wonders. I paid careful attention to how much I sprinkled in, as I have been known in the past to be a bit teaspoon-happy, chucking in what I think is about a spoonful, which has ended in something tasting a little like soap. 

Mmmmm. Soap.

No such mistakes here though with the finished cake being crumbly and light, with a slightly crispy top. There was no hint of vinegar (or soap) and it was nice to have a cake that was not spiced - there has been a lot of ginger used in my kitchen of late -  so a plain cake is rather refreshing.

It has lasted a good week with no adverse side affects and I would certainly make it again. As it is plain, you could flavor this in any way you choose. Perhaps some lemon and orange rind? Or some dried cranberries and nutmeg for the festive season?

Either way, you will have some right nice cakeage at the end of it.


*Adapted from The Victory Cookbook


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