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A Baking Day

We woke up to a slightly pinkish sky this morning, not quite the red sky of the old saying, “Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight; red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning.”  But it was great to see that the snow which I’d longed for had actually disappeared – it soon became a nasty, slushy mess – and we could turn down the thermostat as the house suddenly felt rather hot, not just agreeably warm.

I cooked breakfast while husband went for the Sunday paper.  Red grapefruit for myself, prunes for husband – much like yesterday – followed by scrambled eggs on toast with small crispy pieces of bacon, followed by toast and marmalade, all with mugs of tea.


I changed the bed linen after breakfast  – I  love to luxuriate in clean bed  linen at least once a week (and I also change the pillow cases again mid-week) – and the laundry I removed has already been washed, dried and ironed.  Yes one machine does the washing, another does the drying, but husband kindly does the ironing.  It has all now been put away in the airing cupboard rather than being the start of another pile to be ironed at some unspecified date in the future!

As soon as I’d changed the bed linen and also cleared away breakfast and filled the dishwasher, I decided to make rock buns.  I have to psych myself up to making rock buns because while they are very easy to make, they have 12 different ingredients, all of which need weighing or grating or measuring, almost as many ingredients as a Christmas cake.  But my goodness, although they look insignificant and certainly not as handsome as a Christmas cake, they are worth the effort as they are totally delicious.

For those not familiar with rock buns, the name refers to their shape, not their texture! They are lovely served with a small amount of butter (we use Normandy butter, a delicious light butter unlike the bright yellow rather oily English butter.)

Rock buns

* * * * *

After I baked the rock buns I decided to make an all-in-one fruit cake.  I am sure I’ve mentioned this before, but never mind, it must’ve been a very long time ago as I really can’t remember whether I did or not!  I have been using this recipe since the late 1960s/early 1970s.  I cut it from an advert for Stork margarine in a women’s magazine.

It is simple but, again, you need to weigh and measure ingredients.

4oz margarine

4oz caster sugar (I use golden caster sugar)

2 eggs

1/2 pt milk less two tablespoons so I measure a scant 1/2 pt

12oz mixed fruit (I use sultanas, raisins and glace cherries which I rinse first, to remove the sugar, dry on kitchen paper, and halve)

8oz self-raising flour

1 level teaspoon mixed spice (I use cinnamon instead, and grated nutmeg)

Walnut halves (about 8 or 9)

Line a 2lb loaf tin with baking parchment or a specially-produced liner.  Light the oven and set it to 325F, Gas No 3, or Electric fan assisted oven 160/170C.

Place all the ingredients (except the walnut halves) in a mixing bowl. Beat with a wooden spoon until well mixed.  Place the mixture into the prepared loaf tin, smooth the top (I do this by simply shaking the tin slightly) and put the walnut halves on top.

Bake in the centre of the hot oven for approximately 1 hr but check after 45 minutes.  (My recipe gives a much longer baking time, but my cake was baked at exactly 1 hour.)

Leave in the tin to cool on a wire tray, only remove from the tin when cool.

I had some leftover cooked chicken in the fridge and so decided to make a chicken curry for our lunch. It was very tasty and we enjoyed this light and easy lunch in the sitting room, on trays for a change.

It isn’t easy  making curry look scrumptious, it is what it is, but I do enjoy chicken curry. I serve it with wholegrain Basmati rice.

I would also add here that we don’t tend to pile our plates high with food. Also, if there is a ‘well’ in the plate  –  the kinds of plates we use are not modern ones, they have rims and ‘wells’ – the food should be kept within the area of ‘well’. The rim is there for a reason:  to enable whoever is serving to hold the plate  without their fingers from touching the food, and it also prevents the food slopping over the edge of the plate.  I really dislike seeing food  extending right to the very edges of a plate; if it does, either there is too much on the plate or the plate is too small.

And now it’s 5 pm and icy rain is falling once again.  Time for a cup of tea and one of the rock buns I think and the Sunday paper.  Ooh, and there is Endeavour to look forward to on TV tonight, and a lovely freshly made bed after that.  Bliss.

Until next time.

About Margaret Powling

Margaret Powling
Margaret’s main interests are her husband and family, her friends, her home, her garden, writing, literature, architecture, décor, social history, photography, historic houses and gardens, and towns, villages and the countryside. She writes about the things she enjoys: flowers, scent, fine soap, monthly style magazines, and other such small indulgences, such as afternoon tea or simply enjoying her summerhouse with a book. She invites you to enjoy this virtual visit to South Devon, England.

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  1. Eloise. (thisissixty.blog)

    Cake, fresh bedding and something to enjoy on TV – sounds perfect! I made an apple cake yesterday. Husband says it tastes good but I’ve not tried it yet. It’s good to have a reliable standby recipe, isn’t it? The rock cakes look delicious. I’ve not made small cakes for ages apart from chocolate brownies, but even they start life as a larger cake.
    Our snow is fast disappearing thank goodness. Three whole days of not going out is too much for me. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Oh, Eloise, we love apple cake! I would’ve made that today only I was out of apples (dessert apples, I mean, the ones I use for an apple cake; I had to Bramley’s in the fridge but I don’t use those for apple cake.)
      I don’t know whether we will go out tomorrow – it may take a while to re-stock the supermarkets. Elder son popped into Morrisons and he said that the shelves and fridges looked like a plague of locusts had been in there, no milk, no bread, no veg to speak of and after only a few days of snow!

  2. Eloise. (thisissixty.blog)

    Appke cake is our favourite. I use dessert apples too. Bramleys go too mushy. My daughter in law also mentioned that people seemed to have been panic buying. I’m so glad that I did a big shop last weekend but husband could have picked up any bits and pieces that I needed as he goes to Tesco Express for the newspaper every day. It would take some exceptional bad weather for him not to go. In fact, I’ve never known it!

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Husband went for a newspaper yesterday, Eloise, but none had been delivered. But today things were back to normal again. We are fortunate we have a convenience store close by, good for milk and the newspaper.

  3. One of the small, but very real, pleasures in life – fresh bedding! Your blue and white china is so pretty and fresh looking. Your home always soothes and calms me, a haven of tranquility and very easy on the eye.
    We had a quorn curry today, my husband loved it and didn’t realise, until I told him, that it was not meat. Success!
    Enjoy Endeavour, we’ll be watching it tomorrow.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      I love the blue and white china for breakfast, Elaine … well, for any meal, really. Thank you for saying my home always soothes and calms you, as it’s very easy on the eye. That is a lovely thing to say.

  4. What a lovely sounding day. Clean bed linen (always ironed and dried outside when possible), a bath and clean pyjamas is one of life’s pleasures. Endeavour was very good tonight. The best one of this series so far I thought. I do like a bit of Cold War intrigue especially since watching The Night Watchman which led me to devouring the novels of John Le Carre. Our local theatre which is a beautiful 1960s Brutalist building was the location a couple of weeks’ ago for some filming of the latest BBC dramatisation of a Le Carre novel, The Little Drummer Girl. I did a big shop in Waitrose yesterday afternoon. I thought I was going to be marooned for a fourth day but our local roads to Dorking up and along the North Downs were completely clear and this morning was lovely for a favourite walk through Abinger Roughs. Our walk followed the Greensand Ridge so not too muddy and signs of spring were very evident with luxuriant bluebell growth everywhere.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Hello, Sarah, and yes, always ironed bed linen, and lovely quality cotton. It doesn’t take much to please us, does it?
      Yes, Endeavour was very good, we really enjoyed it – yes Cold War intrigue makes for good dramas.
      What a lovely walk you had although I’ve never heard of Abinger Roughs – I expect it is far nicer than it sounds! Oh, bluebells … it won’t be long now before they are in bloom. We try each summer to walk in a bluebell wood close to the ruined Berry Pomeroy Castle, reputedly one of the most haunted places in the UK. I don’t like the ruin, it’s very oppressive but I love the bluebell wood close by!

  5. More lovely posts Margaret and thank you for the recipe.
    Mum used to make rock cakes, thank you for reminding me about them.
    I so agree with Elaine about the calming nature of your writing and home, always a treat.
    Glad that your weather is improving, maybe you have seen the back of winter.
    Pam in TX.x

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Hello, Pam, and perhaps now you will make some rock cakes, they are such a treat. We have them with a little butter, just a scraping, with our morning coffee or afternoon tea (when I say “afternoon tea” I mean cup of tea, not a meal.)
      I am delighted you find my writing calming, that is a lovely compliment.
      Our snow has now disappeared. Maybe today we might venture out if only for some fresh air after being indoors since last Wednesday.

  6. It’s good to hear your snowy weather has left but icy rain can be so dangerous, too. Thank you again for a great recipe. The last time you mentioned rock buns, I found a recipe from the BBC. In the US we use cups for measuring although I do have a kitchen scale. On Thursday I made them to serve to guests. I tweeked the recipe using cup measurements and added grated orange rind. They came out great. I’m going to print out the recipe for the fruit loaf you shared today. Have a wonderful week, Pat

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      I’m delighted you found a good recipe for rock cakes (or rock buns). I use grated lemon in the recipe I use, but really, it’s all very adaptable, fruit, spice, zest of a citrus fruit. I’m so glad they turned out well and you could share them with your guests! You have a good week, too, Pat.

  7. Your baking efforts look delicious. It’s a shame you can’t share a cake or slice with us over the Internet 🙂 I’m looking forward to cooler temperatures so I can use our oven again. I heard the radio announcer at about 2pm say it was 85% humidity and it only made me feel worse ! I miss having a homemade cake or loaf on hand, it’s nice to have with an afternoon cup of tea. I don’t buy cakes or biscuits as a rule. You’d think I’d have lost weight without any homemade cakes for months now, but no. I’m obviously ‘filling the void’ with other things.

    I love getting into our bed when I’ve put on clean sheets. One of the best things, I think. Ditto falling asleep listening to rain.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Yes, it would be lovely if we could all share a slice of fruit cake over the internet, a virtual tea party!
      Oh, 85% humidity sounds awful, you will feel wet through all day long!
      Yes, falling asleep listening to rain is also a lovely experience; however, there is a drain in the road which is just outside our bedroom wall and often I can hear the rain running into that, and that can, after a while, become annoying, it’s not the same as rain pattering on the window at all!

  8. I think the good people of Torquay thought the apocalypse was starting. Waitrose had no bread, milk or eggs left by midday on Saturday and Fruit and Veg were looking sparse. People were going out with armfuls of bread and milk. it was busier than Christmas Eve!! I’ve not bought anything except 6 eggs since last Wednesday. As you said in a previous post thank goodness for well stocked cupboards and freezers.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Yes, I’ve heard this of many supermarkets, Fiona, people were going berserk, as if stocking for a siege. I think the problem is that (a) the Weather people on TV harped on long and hard about how awful this blizzard was going to be and (b) unlike many countries who experience snow for long periods of the year, such as Canada, we are ill-prepared for the most part in this country for such extreme conditions (-10C and snow) and so think that when the snow arrives it will last a long time when experience tells us that snow that lasts for more than a week is extremely rare anywhere except in northern Scotland. And this weekend demonstrated, too, how easily our country can grind to a halt – no road and rail services, airports closed – so perhaps it was a good thing that people did stock up. We bought a couple of extra loaves, half a dozen extra eggs and an extra 4pt carton of milk but we certainly didn’t go mad. But once the snow did come I was certainly glad to have a well-stocked larder and fridge/freezer. There is talk now that in some parts of the country that there is a water shortage and bottled water is being distributed, all this due to fractured pipes that had been frozen.

  9. Ooh Margaret, I do wish these modern computers came with a aroma app, the cake and buns look absolutely delicious and I can imagine how lovely your home smelt as they were cooking.
    I do believe that fresh linen is one of life’s little pleasures, especially if it’s been line dried and allowed to blow in the breeze, no amount of spray products can replicate that smell can they?
    All the snow has thankfully disappeared now and we have been blessed with a beautiful, sunny Spring day with the heady temperature of 9 degrees, lovely. I have finally changed the seasonal wreath on our front door from the winter willow one to a bright, colourful one with faux spring flowers and speckled eggs. What a difference a few days make!

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Yes, the smell of baking is one of the joys of baking, Elaine! Another loaf I make is a boiled fruit loaf (i.e. you boil the ‘wet’ ingredients, the fat and sugar, before you add the flour) called a Belgian Loaf. No idea why it’s called this, it was a recipe from The Jimmy Young (remember him?) show on Radio 2 in the early 1970s and this is a great favourite as it’s a very moist tea-bread style loaf that you slice and butter.
      I think we all agree that fresh linen is one of life’s little pleasures, and if it’s been line-dried, better still. We once stayed with friends (both sadly now deceased) in East Sussex and they weren’t permitted to hang washing on an outdoor line as it would “look unsightly”, it was part of the by-law of the area, I believe, in their part of East Dene. We were staying with them when our elder son was under two years old and drying his nappies – in the days before disposables – was a nightmare. I think a line of white sheets, pillow cases and towels blowing in the breeze looks lovely, but obviously some councils think differently. I wonder whether it’s we females, too, with our heightened sense of smell and touch that appreciates such things as clean bed linen and line-dried linen? Husband would never say, “Oh, these sheets smell lovely, they’ve bene line-dried!” even had his sense of smell had not diminished over the years.
      It’s not spring like here, we’ve had grey skies and rain, and even thick mist on higher ground. What a great idea to have a spring wreath on the door – did you buy this or make it yourself, Elaine?

      • I often make Bara Birth Margaret when you steep the dried fruit in hot tea overnight, with this version do you boil it with the sugar etc first then, recipe please hint, hint ☺️
        Yes, I have made all but one of my four seasonal door wreaths, we have a decent craft store nearby which sell the basic rings and to these I added appropriate decorations, spring or summer flowers , leaves for the autumn one, plastic eggs or a couple of small bumble bees, artificial of course! It just takes imagination and a glue gun. The only one not handmade is my winter, willow one. For me its a way to mark a change in the seasons.

        • Margaret Powling
          Margaret Powling

          Although I know basically the recipe for Bara Brith I’ve never made it, Elaine. I must make a Belgian loaf next and then I can give the recipe, too, along with photos. I will make a note to do that. But no actual tea is involved in the Belgian loaf.
          I am useless at craft work, but there again, I’ve seldom tried! I prefer photography and writing (of, and cooking.) Indeed, what I find difficult to comprehend is how some people just can’t take half-decent photos even with the very modern cameras we have today which more or less to it all for you. I admit that when I post my photographs I sometimes crop them to remove, say, a lot of sky or things which aren’t necessary, and I bring up the brightness if they are a little dark (I’m only using a cheap, compact camera, not my large professional Nikon) but I am often sent photos from that are wonky or blurred and, really, as if a four year old had taken them. Do people not look at what they are taking? Can’t they actually ‘frame’ a picture, as an artist might when doing a painting, I ask myself? Therefore, I expect if I made a wreath for the door it would look just as bad as such photos! Not having either a country cottage or a manor house, I don’t think a seasonal wreath would look quite right in our very urban environment, pretty though one undoubtedly is.

  10. Mrs Powling, I was wondering, what is the name of the purple flowers with the yellow centres on your breakfast table? I have learnt so many new names of flowers since I started reading your blog. As you can imagine, our varieties are very different from the ones grown in England.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Hello, Kavitha, the purple flowers are primroses which comes in several different colours – wild ones are pale yellow, but cultivated ones are in a variety of colours, such as this purple one.

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