Ding Dong

Last of the Christmas decorations: three wreath rings and a turquoise tree to welcome friends popping in to exchange Christmas gifts.  Masked and distanced, it is very different to the usual party gatherings but worth it if we are all to be around next year.

More people are making special efforts to share Christmas treats: the superb “self-isolation choir” will be presenting their Nine Lessons and Carols this Sunday 20 December at 1700:


These talented amateur singers exude their enthusiasm and the authenticity of Christmas giving as they warble alone from their homes and create the splendid sound of the massed choir.  There is a voluntary ticket price of £5 to the charity FORGETMENOTCHORUS – further details in the link

I was especially treated for my birthday this week.  Friend and co-cook Karen created the super-decorated ginger birthday cake, great cooking pal John brought his Christmas Bakewell tart and I’d used the scrapings from our own Christmas cake to make a small birthday edition – topped with a mini-pile-of-presents I’d made in pewter.  Far too many calories too close to Christmas!

John was happy to share his recipe and I’m working on Karen.

John’s Christmas Bakewell Tart

For the pastry base:

125g butter.

250g plain flour.

50g icing sugar.

1 egg.

Rub the butter in to the flour and sugar before binding together with the beaten egg.

Roll out the pastry to line a deep flan case.

Cover the base with a layer of fruit mincemeat topped with glace cherries and flaked almonds.

For the filling:

175g margarine.

175g sugar.

200g self-raising flour.

3 eggs.

A generous tablespoon of good almond essence.

Whizz all the ingredients together in a food processor and pour into the flan case.

Bake at 160C Gas 4 for about an hour.


For the icing:

3 tablespoons icing sugar.

1 teaspoon almond essence.

1 teaspoon water.

Flaked almonds.

Mix the sugar, essence and water together to create a smooth and slightly runny icing.

Remove the tart from the flan case once cooled and pour over the icing, topping with the almonds.


This is a substantial and delicious alternative to other seasonal cakes and puddings – perfect for a last-minute addition to a Christmas buffet.




Did you know: English party-goers undaunted by summer weather. Vintage band re-energises vintage rockers. Hog roast and local brasserie delight party gourmets.More dancing - LPSunday’s once-in-a-lifetime, utterly memorable celebration showed that it is the guests and helpers who make a great party, rather than whoever’s giving it.  It was a somewhat belated birthday bash that turned in to a triumph of well-wishers over the weather.

That’s not to say that planning with military precision wasn’t essential: from building a new extension 18 months ago, pre-booking music and food plus lining up all the extra tables and chairs.  But, at the end of the day, it was everyone else who played a part: Sue and Sally helped create the magnificent flower arrangements throughout, brother Martin set up the gazebos and table plans, Karen and Jane sorted all the place settings, Julie made her magical coleslaw and other massed salads while Roger selected the liqueurs – and there were more.

Vintage Jazz band 2 - LPIt was, of course, a typical English summer day: drizzling to start with drips disintegrating table coverings, the wind gusting to lift the gazebos and the prospect of puddling along paths for everyone.  Toni was stalwart in overriding the automatic awning that threatened to rewind at each zephyr-breath and reveal the biggest table to the rain: it would have been damp seats all round.

Someone smiled down on us: the weather cleared and alcohol-fuelled calories increased the temperature.  Fabulous food was delivered to each table courtesy of Larry and his team (Lauro’s Brasserie in Fareham) plus a stupendously succulent hog roast hand carved by Martin (Greenfield Pork).  Even with second and third helpings, the left-overs went to good homes.

3 hand jivers - SCThere was no stopping multi-generational foot stompers from pounding the lawn in to submission when the Vintage Sounds band (gerraythomas@googlemail.com) turned up the volume – Elvis would have been proud.  Jiving under the ancient apple trees was only slightly hazardous if you could avoid the low branches!  And “We’ll meet again” turned us in to a joyous group interlinked by hands, shared rhythm by foot but rather less harmony by voice.  Three rousing encores and we collapsed for night-caps and fireworks.

Birthday cake - SCWhat a day of revels –the first guests arrived at 1400 and the last left just before midnight.  We slept well but everything was cleared the following morning – and now the house is full of the scent of lilies from all the table arrangements.  There’s still a pile of gifts and cards to open – just need a sighted-someone to help.

It was a wonderful day – and it wouldn’t have been so magical without the warmth and gusto of everyone.  And we raised over £800 for the band’s charity: Macmillan Cancer support.