Monthly Archives: March 2009

Anyone for dessert

“Is there dessert?” was a regular question asked as the bundle of knives, forks & spoons were noisily gathered from the cutlery drawer before placing them at the eight or more places around our dining table. Mammy would have spread the freshly starched white linen damask cloth across the surface if our arms were not long enough to do so. Little people not much taller than the height of the table found it hard to see if the cloth was evenly spread across the surface.

Place mats were in another drawer. They were to denote a place setting and positions for serving dishes and to protect the table from those hot dishes. In our so called temperate climate hot food cools quickly so the dinner plates were always heated. Elly, that is where I got my asbestos fingers – carrying the filled hot plates and dishes from the kitchen. 😉 Condiments & sauces were next then a plate of sliced bread and drinking glasses. Milk was a normal drink to have with a meal at our table. I might have had water since I was unable to tolerate the milk. When the chorus rang out “Da da dee da da, Grannymar set the table!” it was because I had forgotten a dish of butter. Irish men love butter with their spuds!

If we were slow to eat up our dinner the threat of “No dessert for you!” might be followed by “If you don’t eat it for your dinner, you will get it for your tea!” Dinner was the main meal of the day and served mid day. Mind you our evening meal was often another hot cooked meal. Mammy found it easier than making several plates of sandwiches.

Desserts were not to be missed. Mammy made good pastry, a talent I never inherited. Apple tarts were an all year favourite, with rhubarb when in season and sweet mince in December & January. There were rice and tapioca puddings and baked egg custard. We had fruit flans, meringues and whipped jellies in summertime. Do-nuts and hot Apple cake were part of school day desserts when our time was limited and the boys often took their portions to eat on the bus journey as they returned to school. There might even be a portion for the bus driver!

As I grew up the dessert fair became more varied. I was called on to make lemon meringue pie, sponge cakes and cheese cakes. They never lasted long and the sound of “Any more?” was a regular thing.

Did you have a favourite dessert? Tell us about it.

Food Monday ~ Lamb Leg Steaks in Orange & Ginger

This recipe takes me back a year or three.  I had forgotten it was in my repertoire.  Lamb leg stakes are now on my shopping list.

Lamb Leg Steaks in Orange & Ginger
Preheat the oven to 120°C

4-6 Lamb leg steaks
350 mls orange juice
zest of 1 orange
6 pieces preserved ginger, finely chopped
Flour to coat the chops seasoned with salt & black pepper.
Olive oil for frying
2 oranges.

Wipe the chops with kitchen paper and coat with the seasoned flour.  Heat the olive oil in frying pan and seal chops on both sides but do not overcook.  Remove from pan and put into casserole.  Pour the orange juice into the casserole around the chops and sprinkle on the finely diced preserved ginger.  Put the lid on the casserole and place in the pre-heated oven & cook for 2 hours.  Remove the lid, turn up the oven to 200°C and cook for a further 20 minutes.  Serve garnished with orange circles.

Two out of Three

Yesterday I made the most of a little sunshine.  My aim was to have a short walk, bring home the evidence by way of a photo or three.  Part two was to find a coffee shop with Wifi and put Tobias through his paces.  This was in fact a lesson for me.  I have used my laptop here at home and in Elly & Georges house (Everything in their house is connected to Wifi… even me!).

Well, I did manage to go for a walk.

I had decided I wanted a photo of a bridge and had a particular bridge over the Six Mile river at Lough Neagh, Antrim in mind.  As I neared my destination I noticed a few PSNI (Police Service for Northern Ireland) in Visi vests, then I saw the crowd of marchers.  I quickly changed direction and drove on to Randalstown, passing Masserene Barracks, where the two young soldiers were shot a couple of weeks ago on the evening they were due to leave for a tour of duty in Afganistan.  I am very anti war in any part of the world.  Those young men were some mothers sons and the ripples of heartbreak will radiate through many lives young and old for many a year.

I did find my bridge a rather unusual one:

The river Braid at Randalstown**

The lower bridge is the road into the town and the upper one was originally a railway line.  The last train to travel this way was back in the late 1950s or early 1960s.  Randalstown was another Linen town in days of yore.  At one stage about 1000 people worked in the mill weaving and finishing the linen.  If you inherited Irish table or bed linen from you mothers or grandmothers, perhaps it came from Randalstown.

Another section of the railway bridge taken from the road bridge

The old railway now paved as a walkway.

I did manage to have a circular walk along the train track and back through the town.  You see the photos but alas I have yet to discover a coffee shop with Wifi.  I suppose two out three are not bad.  Next time I aim to post my pics on the blog while enjoying a coffee away from home!

** James Hume commented on 27-08-2012 thus:

That is not the River Braid it is the River Maine at Randalstown flowing to Lough Neagh via Shanes Castle Estate.

I stand corrected!  Thank you James.

Looking Back

On Tuesday I was recalling the work of Ada Lovelace a pioneer in the world of Technology.  Today I recall other ladies who in days gone by were forging ahead to break other boundaries.

Last night I was reading about the Playing Rules for the game of Camogie.  As far as I could see they were all about the referee, umpires and the uniform.  There was little or no mention of the players.  It was a far cry from the original game that took place in 1904. I wrote a post back in March 2007 about that first game here.

Camogie may come under the banner of the GAA – the Gaelic Athletic Association, but it is still listed under ‘Other Activities’ on their website.  Mind you when the game is in full flow it is difficult to know whether it is a game of Men’s hurling or a game of Camogie.  The uniforms are similar and the players all wear headgear nowadays.

Modern day uniform

Compare it with the original

On Sunday 17 July 1904 at the Showgrounds at An Umaimh

In the picture above, the player 1st left in the front row in my Maternal grandmother and she seems to have a bloody nose.  Tut! Tut! Rough game. 🙄

Granny aged 20

Thursday Special ~ Old Timer Rumpy Pumpy

This one is older than the hills and came from three directions on the one day by email…

The husband leans over and asks his wife, ‘Do you remember the first time we had sex together over fifty years ago? We went behind the village tavern where you leaned against the back fence and I made love to you.’

Yes, she says, ‘I remember it well.’

OK,’ he says, ‘How about taking a stroll around there again and we can do it for old time’s sake?’

Oh Jim, you old devil, that sounds like a crazy, but good idea!’

A police officer sitting in the next booth heard their conversation and, having a chuckle to himself, he thinks to himself, I’ve got to see these two old-timers having sex against a fence. I’ll just keep an eye on them so there’s no trouble. So he follows them.

The elderly couple walks haltingly along, leaning on each other for support aided by walking sticks. Finally, they get to the back of the tavern and make their way to the fence. The old lady lifts her skirt and the old man drops his trousers. As she leans against the fence, the old man moves in.. Then suddenly they erupt into the most furious sex that the policeman has ever seen. This goes on for about ten minutes while both are making loud noises and moaning and screaming. Finally, they both collapse, panting on the ground.

The policeman is amazed. He thinks he has learned something about life and old age that he didn’t know.

After about half an hour of lying on the ground recovering, the old couple struggle to their feet and put their clothes back on. The policeman is still watching and thinks to himself, this is truly amazing; I’ve got to ask them what their secret is.

So, as the couple passes, he says to them, ‘Excuse me, but that was something else. You must’ve had a fantastic sex life together. Is there some sort of secret to this?’

Shaking, the old man is barely able to reply,

Fifty years ago that wasn’t an electric fence.’

Handy Hints for Wednesday ~ 20

This week I start with a request.  Lorna asked how to remove eggshell paint.

The fresher the paint the easier it is to remove, not having time to set.

For water based paint I suggest water to remove it.
If it is an oil based paint, then petrol.  My husband used nothing else in all the years I knew him.  He even used it to clean the brushes!  We had a petrol mower so there was always some in the can, winter and summer.  Naturally use it in a well ventilated area.  The fumes evaporate quickly and then launder the garment in the normal way.

For a sweeter flavour from young garlic plant it alongside crushed cloves and a few olive stones.

I was talking to a member of staff from the underwear department of our local Marks & Spencers store.  She told me they always have a packet of baby wipes on hand to remove deodorant stains and make-up from clothing that has been tried on!  Proof if we ever needed it that the wipes work.

A hanging basket filled with a variety of culinary herbs, e.g. parsley, chives, golden oregano, variegated mints & sage hanging outside the kitchen door is decorative, unusual and very useful.

You don’t want to have a shower when you water a hanging basket, use ice cubes and they will moisten the soil as they melt.

24th March

I like old buildings and hate to see them fall into disrepair.   I have blogged about a few of them in the past:

As with all old buildings I like to stand and visualize them in their heyday with large groups of people working away.  I see in my minds eye the machinery and hear the clangs and clatters as it is used.  I hear the voices of instruction, correction, encouragement, banter and also the laughter.  I feel the heat, the cold or the dampness.  I remember that children of a young age, often only into double figures, worked long hours for a pittance.

Life back then was very ‘local’.  Without our modern means of transport and communication, life revolved around the mill or factory.  Romances blossomed over or behind the machinery.  One generation followed another into the factory.

I think of the offices with the high desks where the clerks sat on high stools or chairs.  These staff dressed and indeed addressed  each other formally.  There was no going to work in sports wear or looking like you had slept in your clothes for a week and forgotten to brush your hair!

The furniture was heavy and there were no castors to aid with moving it.  Decoration and paintwork were dark and the windows were high and small.  Lighting was poor, and coffee machines unheard of.  In fact eating at work would be frowned on.

All records of the work were hand written into large ledgers using dip pens.  Any mistake, misspelling or ink blot was permanent.  The accounts involved long and cross tots; mental arithmetic, a pencil and eraser the only aids.  Orders, invoices and receipts were hand written ready to be delivered by messenger boys.  Wages were paid weekly by cash counted into the hand of each employee.  The cost of breakages or for time lost was often deducted.  Holidays were few.  In these parts the annual holiday was a day out to Portrush on 13th July.

So today on Ada Lovelace Day* an international celebration of women in technology that centres around the use of blogs.  I am pleased the workplace has advanced to the stage that it is, wherever we are, user friendly bright and warm.

Three cheers to our women in Technology today.  On behalf of future generations we thank you!

* Ada Lovelace was born in 1815, and is recognised as one of the first computer programmers. She wrote programs for Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine, along with the very first description of a computer and software.


For about half of my life I was afraid of dogs and it took about another ten years for me to tolerate them near me.

About ten years ago while visiting friends I was the recipient of curious looks and sniffs from their two miniature Yorkies.  Once they decided that I was friendly and not foe, they took a run across the room and up my shins to circle on my lap before finding a cosy spot to sit and then sleep.  I was smitten.  I fell in love that day and if I was ever to share my space with a pet it would be a Yorkie.  No not the chocolate bar, the breed of dog!

My kinda Yorkie

I do not like cats and don’t want them near me.

There was a discussion on Twitter yesterday about dogs and chocolate. You know the kind of thing … Is chocolate good or bad for dogs?  I have heard several discussions on the topic over the years and they have all come to the same conclusion.

Poison by chocolate can occur quickly if your dog had a large amount, but sometimes even small amounts will show signs of poisoning within a few short hours. Symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea, restlessness and hyperactivity, and he or she might even go to you for help and answers. Symptoms will progressively get worse from restlessness to arrhythmia and other muscle twitching. Frequent urination is common, a direct side affect of the toxin in chocolate.

If you (like me) have a habit of sharing your finger foods with your dog you always have to tell them no when you have any sort of chocolate. Eventually – they will learn to associate the scent as something they just simply can not have – and will usually just leave you alone.

Those quotes came from a very interesting article that you can find here.  The last one made me think…. it is all down to how you train your pet/s.

My sister (E) is an animal lover and she has two dogs and 2 cats.  Since she lives alone the animals have the run of the house.  They walk, jump and sleep on the furniture including the beds.  They are around at meal time.  E shares titbits of food with them from her plate.  They expect the same from visitors and if you ignore them, as I try to do, they jump up like beggers.

They are very noisy yapping barking most of the day.  E will break off from talking mid conversation on the phone to speak to the cats & dogs.  I have heard her tell the dogs: “It is Grannymar, and if you are a good girl she will bring you Malteesers!”  This I ignore since I discovered that choclate & dogs don’t go together.

The last time I stayed the barking was getting me down.  We had a general chat about training young animals and she told me she used vinegar to teach them not to ‘piddle’ in the wrong places.  It is harmless but dogs do not like the smell of vinegar.  I asked it it could be used to teach them not to bark.

E produced a small spray bottle and I half filled it with vinegar and topped it up with water.  Everytime the dogs barked I sprayed the vinegar in their direction.  After a few sprays I made the sound of the sprayer mechanism as I worked it.  By the end of the day they had the idea….  I cupped my hand as if it held the bottle and made the noise… they stopped barking!

Some weeks later I was talking on the phone to E and she was using speaker phone.  She told me the dogs were looking everywhere to find me since they could hear my voice.  She found it amusing and started to laugh.

The laughter set the dogs barking and their noise drowned out my sister’s voice.  I made the noise of the spray bottle and immediately there was silence at the other end of the phone!  A week later I did the same thing and once more the dogs went quiet.

To use an old saying of my mother’s…. “It all reflects on the home training”!

Food Monday ~ Salmon, Prawn & Potato Salad

With the stretch in the days and a touch of sunshine to warm our hearts, my taste buds travel towards tasty salads.  To celebrate I share an easy, colourful and tempting salad that works well for lunchtime or in smaller portions for a starter.  With each tasting I am reminded of my friend Paddy, now living in Scotland, who turned a simple salad lunch with a glass of white wine into a special occasion.

Salmon, Prawn & Potato Salad
Serves 4

625g of new potatoes, well scrubbed
50g of smoked salmon cut into thin strips
250g prawns, cooked and peeled
125g halved seedless grapes
50g nuts, pecan are my preference for this recipe
1 tablespoon of snipped chives
1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped to use for garnish.


4 tablespoons soured cream
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon juice
salt & freshly ground black pepper

Cook the potatoes in a pan of lightly salted water for about 15-20 minutes until just tender.  Drain well and allow to cool.  Slice the potatoes and put in a bowl.  Add the smoked salmon, prawns, grapes, nuts and the snipped chives.  Mix the salad lightly, using two forks.

For the dressing:

Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to combine.  Pour the dressing over the salad just before serving and toss lightly to coat.  Sprinkle with dill and serve.

UPDATE: Elly finally got around to answering comments about her tomato soup recipe last night, so if you had a question for her the answer will be here.