Some you win, some you lose!

Watch me make them here or download the recipe

White bowl of colourful shredded leaves, sliced onions and peppers with golden mango pieces.

Smashing lettuce: a great trick to remove the Iceberg lettuce core.  Hold it firmly with the stem side down.  Smash the stem firmly on to the worktop and you should just be able to remove all the core intact.  It feels and sounds pretty brutal first time but really works.

My regular co-cook, John the taxi-driver, was madly enthusiastic about the healthy mango dressing for a summer chicken salad and the low-carbohydrate bread for club sandwiches. John and Penny close up to the frying pan to catch the smell of mango, chilli and lime.

He was absolutely right about the first: fresh and zingy chicken that is perfect for hot summer days.  So simple that there’s nothing to go wrong and so delicious that you’ll want more!

But he was hugely disappointed with the gluten-free almond and coconut flour bread –chewing reduced it to a paste that went straight in to the bin.  If I try it again, I might add some xanthium gum and yeast, herbs, nuts, seeds or anything to improve the taste and texture.  Not one of our best experiments but worth a try if you are desperate!

Club sandwich cut in half to reveal layers of lettuce, chicken tomato and bacon

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

You Tube

penny@bakingblind.com

Officer training – not all stiff upper lip!

Three months’ “shake-and-bake” officer training at the Britannia Royal Naval College back in 1978 produced a great batch of new Women’s Royal Naval Officers.

You can see that parades featured large – and it could be perhaps an hour standing around with those winter winds blowing up skirts.  We all had full sets of cold weather gear: thermal vests and short “long johns”.  The problem was when the weather was so bad that they cancelled the outdoor parade so we had to strip off the thermals in no time flat – which also meant grappling with complicated collar studs.  Where did they get the idea that still dressing up for the last century was a mark of leadership potential?

The great and the good, the Admirals and Director WRNS, came to inspect the turn-out and precision footwork.

Behind the scenes there was a bit more fun: taking our feet off the ground for a flight in the College’s helo.  I just wish I had an image of the ballroom dancing classes we took in preparation for all the future wardroom Balls– there was so much laughter at the dreadful footwork that some were thrown out for being too disruptive.

And the rehearsal for the end-of-term Passing Out Parade was another traditional time for different dressing up – its difficult to see which were the real women and which were just for the morning.

On parade 2 On parade Passing out parade rehearsal Butter wouldn't melt Close inspection Dressed for Helo flight

The chaos of travel.

Me in my gardenHow can you make a journey of discovery nowadays?  I cast my hopes to the winds of social media and found new people around the world.

My goal with the Holman competition was to cook with new people wherever I could find them – through e-mails, social media, interviews and every other way I could think of.  My thanks go to the outstanding group of new and willing supporters spread far and wide: from Noam in Costa Rica who runs his own speciality Jungle Culinary Adventures. To Stephen in Malawi who supports local women through re-recycling projects (Our World International),  from Jo in Virginia Beach with whom I haven’t had any contacts since our paths crossed in the Women’s Royal Naval Service nearly 40 years ago to Colin in Melbourne who used to cook in the Royal Navy too; others welcoming this complete stranger such as the Rotary Club in China plus Tom and Fran in Dover (New Hampshire, USA);  Rosemary in Kiama (Australia) is the sole previous regular contact – she took me cooking in Umbria last year.

If I’m lucky enough to win, all this generosity would enable me to travel through six continents  meeting even more new people,  cooking in amazingly different places and having the adventure of a lifetime.  I couldn’t have got even this far without all the help and enthusiasm from so many distant places and many others closer to home.  Just putting together the plans has been an exhilarating whirlwind so, fingers crossed, for the future.  The prize winners are due to be announced on 1 July.

 

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

www.bakingblind.com

My youngest co-cook so far

Penny and Luke in the herb gardenRosemary, sun-dried tomato and olive savoury sconesWatch me make them on YouTube and download the recipes here

 

Young Luke turned his hand to sweet scones so I could focus on a savoury version.  He’s got his own YouTube channel too – game playing with his unique vocalisation for each character.

Luke cutting out his sweet scones

This is a basic scone mix that you can vary to suit the occasion and your taste buds.

For a traditional Cornish cream tea, split the scones horizontally and then spread with jam followed by whipped cream.  A Devon cream tea uses clotted cream before the jam.

Small savoury scones topped with a flavoured butter, pate, salami, ham or whatever else inspires you can make delicious canapes.  I’ve often used just a couple of tablespoons of horseradish sauce (instead of the olives, tomato and herbs) and topped the scones with smoked salmon or smoked mackerel pate with a thin quarter slice of lemon.

 

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

You Tube

penny@bakingblind.comLuke adding his ingredients

Navy women.

Here’s the fourth batch of young women transforming in to naval officers at Dartmouth in early 1978.  We had just three months although many of the men took years.2 rows of women officer cadets plus their Divisional officers on the steps in front of the naval college

I remember the feet of the Special Duties Division (St George’s?) pounding in the cold dark hours of their early morning platoon runs – and their chorused shout of “Good morning, Talbot Division” under our windows to banish the last hopes of desperate sleep.  There must have been some confusion as to whether we were training as maids or officers: every minute seemed to be spent polishing (brass and shoes), ironing anything that could be worn and practising how to drink coffee without the regulation chocolate biscuit melting down the side of the cup.

There was lots of rushing about – but only in a very lady-like way – not much sleep and a wild fantasy that being able to “drive” the platoon around the parade ground was going to be career enhancing.

I found the very best refuge: warm, barely lit and with soft mats for a snooze.   It was the firing range so I became an enthusiastic rifle and pistol shot to the extent that, in desperation, they included me in the College team.  But, in those days, despite the Women’s Royal Naval Service having been trained at the College for over a year, the powers-that-be still hadn’t quite grasped that we wear different clothes.  The vaunted Dartmouth “Colours” came in the form of a natty green tie replete with the Britannia logo – just what I needed!

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

You Tube

penny@bakingblind.com