Expert help with home-made liqueur.

Liqueur glasses of the pale yellow liquid being clinked together Long-term friend, Peter, shared his years of experience: he presides over the National Association of Wine and Beer makers (www.nawb.org.uk), is a national judge and multi-prize winner.  He helped me turn a few lemons and some vodka in to a very respectable home-made version of Limoncello liqueur from Italy.

You can watch us make it on YouTube or download the recipe from bakingblind.com

Dead easy – the most arduous bit was remembering to shake the jar every day!

Two laughing people and lemonsServe at room temperature or chilled and you could pour over ice-cream.  You can experiment with different fruits: oranges, raspberries, limes or a mix.

You can experiment with different fruits: oranges, raspberries, limes or a mix.The funnel lined with a damp coffee filter is held firmly above the large jar.

 

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

penny@bakingblind.com

Professional chef supports Baking Blind.

Penny and Mike hovering over a small stainless steel pan of strawberries.Outstanding to have Mike give his time, enthusiasm and expertise in sharing his recipes and tricks-of-the-trade with me.  Together we made a glorious ice-cream and two different sauces to ripple through – perfect as there is some hope of sun this summer.

Cooking alongside a professional chef could have been daunting: would I be quick enough, accurate enough and clean enough?  On the day, no fear as we happily cooked together: he realised what might be tricky and we found ways of working around blindness.  Exactly what I’d like to achieve if my bid for the international Holman prize should succeed.

I’ve eaten his food for years when he was working at my favourite local brasserie and his ever-changing range of home-made ice-creams was always my favourite dessert choice.  He even catered a big birthday party for me a couple of years ago.  This is a chef on top of his form who has recently launched his own business: catering for that special private dinner party at home to big corporate functions extending over whole weekends.The pale cream ice-cream served in two glasses, each with a different flavour so one has red strawberry stripes and the other, brown caramel sauce.

You can watch us working together: we didn’t include the noisy churning in the ice-cream maker because not everyone has one but the recipe can still work with just a freezer and occasional stir to break up the ice crystals.  The salted caramel sauce would work with lots of other puddings – especially the sticky toffee sort – while the strawberry compote is delicious by itself or with meringues, a crisp biscuit, and some sponge – endless variations!  And absolutely none of this is difficult and every ingredient is easy to find.  Desserts that are so wonderfully wicked that they need to be locked away in a freezer – preferably with guards and barbed wire!

 

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

Watch me make them on YouTube or download the recipe here

You Tube

penny@bakingblind.com

Fledgling baby Navy Pussers at HMS PEMBROKE.

We were endlessly teased about being on the Long Sec’s Course (its all in the name).  Held at the old naval shore establishment, HMS PEMBROKE, near Chatham, it aimed to equip us to be Secretaries in other establishments (for the WRNS officers) and at sea (for the men).Formal photo with two rows of young naval officers in uniform

But please don’t go thinking that this was all about typing and shorthand – it was much more concerned with the breadth of running the non-fighting aspects of a Royal Navy organisation: some basic personnel and legal matters, security, document control and administration, catering and finance.  It was the first step in becoming a “Pusser” -naval slang for a purser – a branch that has now morphed in to Logistics.

As a course, we had to march around the parade ground with disastrous results as one of the men simply couldn’t keep in step.  I’d forgotten about the camping trip when another still kept to his bow tie and monocle while we girls still accessorised for the country.  It sounds a bit Bertie Wooster after all these years!

Penny in blouse and natty scarf with male colleague in full jacket, bow tie and monacleWriting this, I have so little memory of the course but more about the dramas.  We did have to manage a full scale fire evacuation exercise of Wrens Quarters in the middle of the night – lots of very disgruntled girls freezing in nighties and slippers.  The social side had its highlights too: a night the chaps lifted a piano in to the night bar, utterly fatal drinking games, one of the girls chasing the Irish doctor down a corridor wielding a stiletto-heeled shoe, the mornings after … And we had a wonderful time at the Chatham Navy Days – seeing who could visit the most ships’ wardrooms.

I’d already been told that I was off to Naples for my first proper job which was very unusual so had to fit in time getting all my white tropical uniform and kit – back to HMS DAUNTLESS as time was so tight.    I’m sure that there were a perfectly dreadful pair of flat lace-up canvas shoes that never came out of the box.

 

Penny Melville-Brown OBE

Disability Dynamics ltd www.disabilitydynamics.co.uk

Helping disabled people to work since 2000

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