Spring has finally arrived.
April showers and blustery milder weather has announced Spring is finally here. Growth has been very slow, so the donkeys took matters into their own hooves. Breaking through the electric fencing tapes they have had a great time grazing on the newly emerged perennial geranium leaves, pulmonaria and other tasty morsels in the front bed.

Noddy and Holly look as if butter wouldn't melt in their mouths.

Noddy and Holly look as if butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths.

As we emerge from short days of winter to the longer daylight hours of April we have been spending more time in the garden. In the past we have almost been able to tell the date by looking at the plants which have emerged. Snowdrops, often visible in the new year, Daffodils, if not in bloom by Warwick’s mother’s birthday certainly by his own birthday in early March. Primroses, violets and then bluebells all followed in quick succession. Not this year! So at in the middle of April the daffodils have only just emerged into full flower and the wild flowers are still to open fully. With the Gulf Stream back in it’s usual place we have the promise of milder, sunny, showery April days. So it has been “all hands to the plough” so to speak to get the garden in order.

I have just been reminded that this year The Festival of Fires presents Gathering at Uisneach at The Uischneach Inn on  4th  & 5th  May.  Not on the The Hill of Uisneach but at the bottom of the hill at The  Uisneach Inn in Kilare, Co. Westmeath. There will be a 2-day celebration of music, culture and more For details of this exciting event see: http://festivaloffires.com/

On Sunday, 5th May at 11.30a.m. Multyfarnham Country Fair will be taking place in the village park opposite the Catholic Church. Stalls range from jams, chutneys and cakes to chicken, ducks and turf.

A fine cockerel or sale at  Multyfarnham Country Fair

A fine cockerel or sale at Multyfarnham Country Fair

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Newly emerged early rhubarb

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Noddy after rolling in dry leaves

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Blustery day in walled garden at Mornington

Walled Garden Notes

The chitted potatoes have been planted in the walled garden. More potatoes were planted in a newly ploughed area outside the chicken house. Only after the job was done to have our very kind neighbour call in to tell us that as he hadn’t been satisfied the job he had done the first tim, so  he had come back and cross ploughed and harrowed again. Resulting with potatoes no longer in ridges!!!! No doubt they will still come up.

Beetroot and seeds for vegetables and herbs are all planted.

The greenhouse has been tidied and moss removed from the outside of the roof.

Rhubarb and ginger jam is in the process of being made.

Margaret and Julia

Margaret and Julia were friends. Each week, Margaret would mount her ‘sit up and beg’ bicycle and head off to meet her friend Julia. They had first met when working as members of the staff at Ballinagall House. Working from early morning they would have dusted, polished, laid tables, served trays of afternoon tea in the conservatory or small drawing room and polished the brass stair rails weekly.  Ballinagall displayed the finest of Irish craftsmanship and was owned by the Smyth family. In Irish houses, just as in Downtown Abbey, history brought about changes in the fortunes of landed families and the next generation was not always in a position to take on responsibility for the ‘family place’. So after Mrs Smyth’s death the estate was sold, furniture auctioned and staff retired.

When I first saw it it the front door was hanging open, the enormous gilt mirrors were standing propped against the wall in the front hall. Where the gentry had once danced at The Westmeath Hunt Ball, someone had tried to remove the ornamental stone slabs of the floor apparently with mixed success. The brass stair rails were still in place and the fine shamrock plasterwork of the library ceiling still beautiful, although showing evidence of damp; forecasting its’ ignominious end on the floor below. The ornamental lake in the land below the house was long drained, and was now being grazed by cattle, or used for growing barley.

The shelves of the butler’s pantry still housed the remnants of the Meissen and other fine china dinner and tea services which had once been used for the dinner parties and afternoon tea for the ladies. Overlooked by the auctioneers who had catalogued the contents of the house for “The Auction”, the odd cups were being taken over to the stud manager’s house to be used by manager and his wife. Better that they had the dignity of coming to the end of their days ‘in service’ than that they ended in a pile of broken china as the roof finally fell in.

However, back to Julia and Margaret’s story. After Mrs Smyth’s death it was arranged that Julia would go to work for Mrs Harvey Kelly at Clonhugh, whilst Margaret would go to Mrs O’Hara at Mornington. So Julia and her belongings were collected in a donkey and cart and driven over to Clonhugh by young neighbours. Margaret, her bicycle and all her belongings came to Mornington.
The two ladies would meet up each week on their ‘half day’, taking it in turns to mount their ‘sit up and beg’ cycles and ride fearlessly, through the country lanes to each others ‘houses’. There they would ‘take tea’, enjoy the latest ‘chat’* It was on such an occasion that I first met Julia. Margaret had  invited me into to meet ‘her friend’, to take tea and sample her home made cake specially made for the occasion. So on a sunny August afternoon, after a morning of great flurry  in the main kitchen; with a even more  ‘toing and frowing’ after lunch, all was ready. So on the stroke of four o’clock  as instructed by my mother in law I knocked on the door of the servant’s hall and entered to take tea.

*local gossip

‘sit up and beg’ was a type of bicycle often used by women. They were very heavy but allowed a woman to ride in skirts.

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Pancakes for Everyone

February 9, 2013

Pancake Day is next week

Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Day as it is probably better known is on 12th February 2013

Mum’s pancakes were always the best! I have fond memories of arriving home from school on a cold February afternoon in Yorkshire, my mother was sitting on a stool in front of the open fire cooking pancakes. Served piping hot with lemon juice and a sprinkling of sugar, they were scrumptious. I believe we ate so many that we couldn’t eat any supper that night.

Pancakes by hand

Pancakes by hand are easy to make.

Here is the basic recipe for the pancakes my mother made.

8oz Plain flour
2 eggs
1/2-3/4 pint milk*

*This will depend on the type of flour used. some fkours are more absorbent than others

Method

  1. Using a large mixing bowl wooden spoon or wire whisk.
  2. Sieve flour into mixing bowl.
  3. Make well in centre and break eggs into well.
  4. Beat eggs and a little milk in centre of well incorporating more flour gradually.
  5. Add remaining milk gradually to make a smooth batter.
  6. Adjust consistency by adding a little more milk at a time.
  7. Allow batter to ‘stand’ for at least an hour*.
  8. * Much better if you can cover bowl of batter and allow to rest overnight.
  9. The batter will thicken and any lumps will come to the surface.
  10. Remove any lumps by pressing against side of bowl.
A food processor can be used to make pancake batter for crepes

A food processor can be used to make pancake batter for pancakes.

  • To cook pancakes
  • Heat frying pan on a medium / high heat, add a little oil or other fat .
  • Pour batter onto hot frying pan. It is a good idea to use a ladle or small container to take batter from bowl.
  • Swirl batter around pan to cover whole base or use back of soup ladle to spread batter across base of frying pan.
  • Allow surface to dry out, edges of pancake will begin to pull away from frying pan, enabling you to put a spatula or turner under the pancake to see the other side.
  • If it is speckled then you can turn it and dry the other side of the pancake.
  • Turn onto a warmed plate.
Pancakes served with lemon juice and sugar

Pancakes served with lemon juice and sugar

Frying pans

Selection of frying pans used in the kitchen at Mornington House

The large black cast iron frying pan was purchased from Simpson Sears in Burnaby, B.C. Canada many years ago. Just five days after I arrived in the country. It travelled with us on camping trips from Northern B.C. through Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Wyoming, Alberta. Used for cooking breakfast, spaghetti sauces, pies and even cakes. It  is has been a faithful servant in our kitchen.The shiny pan on the right is a much used omelette pan; also used for cooking thin crêpes.The other two pans are recently acquired and have non-stick surfaces.

Surprisingly we have relatively little  kitchen equipment. There is only home in the kitchen here at Mornington if a pan or saucepan can perform several tasks. There is no room on the shelves or in the cupboards for a ‘space taker’ with no regular function.

World wide Pancakes 

Every country makes pancakes, crepes, blinis, hot cakes, the names are endless. Teaching in a Canadian high-school with it’s multi ethnic mix of Canadians exploring @pancakeday was always educational. Students were asked to bring a ‘family recipe’ to use to make pancakes. The variety of different pancakes was enormous. From chapatis to Tacos, blinis and It helped to demonstrate the similarities between our traditions rather than our diversities. I loved teaching.
Nowadays, I enjoy sharing recipes and experiences with our friends, family and guests.
We find that little people love making their own pancakes.
The following recipe is the one used by Warwick for breakfast pancakes. (n.b. in Canada these are called ‘Hot Cakes’)

Warwick’s Pancakes

         1 ½ Cup Plain Flour
         2 tsp Baking Powder
    or 1½ cups Self Raising Flour
         2 Tbsp Granulated Sugar
        3Tbsp. Cooking Oil or melted butter
        2 Eggs – Beaten
        ¾ -1Cups Milk

Method

  1. Measure flour
  2. Mix dry ingredients and sift together
  3. Beat eggs, add milk and oil or melted butter.
  4. Add liquid to dry ingredients, slowly, to prevent lumps forming; stir do not beat.
  5. Heat a griddle or frying pan: to test temperature sprinkle with a few drops of water if they dance the pan is ready.
  6. With sufficient fat in the recipe and a good pan, no extra fat will be necessary.
  7. If the first pancakes sticks, a small amount of fat maybe added before each lot of pancakes are cooked.
  8. Pour batter onto pan allow about ¼ cup for each pancake.
  9. Bubbles will come to the surface, when first bubbles begin to burst and stay open, flip over with a pancake turner or spatula.
  10. Put pancakes onto warm plate and keep warm in oven.
  11. Serve immediately.

Makes 14-16 pancakes 4-5 inches in diameter.

Serve with maple or blueberry syrup

Happy Cooking