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Easter Monday

After a busy Easter Sunday when our family came to lunch, we were quite tired in the evening, so I lit candles – even though I’ve said on several occasions I’m not keen on candles and consider them a fire risk.  However, it was a chilly, wet evening, and although it was dusk and not sufficiently dark enough to warrant closing the curtains, I suddenly thought that candles would make the room look more cosy – and they did.  But I still draw the line at paying silly prices for scented candles.

We then settled to watch some half-decent TV programmes, which made a pleasant change. First, the new series of The Big Painting Challenge, when “ten enthusiastic amateurs face a six-week artistic boot camp, with professional mentors Diana Ali and Pascal Anson,”[Radio Times.] At the end of the first programme, one of the amateur artists is eliminated and so on until the end of the series.  And, my goodness, the difference in their painting styles while each painting the same still life arrangements.  We thoroughly enjoyed the programme.

This was followed by Countryfile and then a quick change of channels to see Escape to the Chateau, the third and final programme in the current series with Dick and Angel still fixing up their crumbling chateau, and with Angel putting the finishing touches to their ‘geodesic’ dome (on a pontoon, floating in their moat) so that the closing shots were of the Strawbridge family, with little Arthur and Dorothy, having a sleepover under the stars. Ahhh!

And then, the first part of the new drama series, Agatha Christie’s Ordeal by Innocence.  It was the usual country house murder mystery with a cast of misfits headed up by Bill Nighy and the victim played superbly by Anna Chancellor.  I only wish that Bill Nighy would cease his whispering-speak voice and speak up!  It wasn’t just in this drama that he whispered his way through it; he’s like this on every occasion.  Perhaps he can’t speak more loudly?  And so we had to put the subtitles on simply so we could hear him.  Most other characters spoke very clearly.  Which makes a change!

So a very good evening’s entertainment. Which certainly made a change.

Easter Sunday lunch table – the bunnies are for our sons and our daughters in law, and our grandson had a traditional Easter egg

As well as the chocolate cake I made a raspberry Pavlova for dessert but I had some mishaps.  First, when I cracked the first egg to separate the yolk from the white, it totally disintegrated, so the yolk was mixed with the white. No good whatsoever for a Pavlova.  So that had to be thrown away, the bowl washed and a re-start made.  And as I’d run out of caster sugar, which is required, I’d ground some granulated sugar in the electric grinder, but when the egg disintegrated, some of it went into the sugar – it splashed everywhere – and so that sugar had to be thrown out, too, and a re-start made.

By then I was getting just slightly annoyed, so I decided to forego caster sugar and thought I’d use granulated.  But really, that was a mistake.  Granulated is denser than caster, and so even though I’d whipped the four egg whites well, once the sugar was added, plus the cornflower and vinegar necessary to provide the mashmallow texture of a Pavlova, the Pavlova didn’t rise as much as it should’ve done (even though it tasted the same.) But everyone liked it, there wasn’t a scrap left.  Once the meringue based was made, I allowed it to cool before filling with whipped cream and raspberries.

Early this afternoon, having remembered that I had rhubarb in the fridge, I decided to make a Rhubarb cake.  This is like the toffee apple cake but substituting rhubarb for apples.  It’s very easy, you simply chop up sufficient rhubarb for the top of the cake (this sinks into the cake but that doesn’t matter) and then you saute the rhubarb in butter (or soft margarine) with a couple of dessertspoons of Muscovado sugar, which with the margarine results in a toffee consistence.  This then cools while you make the cake, creaming together 6 oz of margaine or butter with 6 oz of caster sugar, to which you then add 2 large eggs, and then 3 oz of plain flour, 3 oz of ground almonds and a teaspoon of baking powder.  You can also add slivers of stem ginger to the rhubarb mixture.

Rhubarb with stem ginger sautéing in soft margarine with Muscovado sugar

Once you have made your cake mixture, put it in a prepared (lined) round cake tin, and pour the cooled rhubarb on top, with the toffee mixture.  Put the tin in the centre of a pre-heated oven 160C for about 40 minutes, then check with a skewer to see if it’s ready.  Leave to cool in the tin before turning out, carefully, as this is a very soft cake, more a dessert than a cake.  It’s lovely served warm with cream (which unfortunately we didn’t have, I’d used it all on the Pavlova.)

This is the first time I’ve made this particular cake. Next time I will use caster sugar, and perhaps add less of the toffee mixture, but even though this cake ‘sinks’ a bit, and doesn’t look exactly pretty, it certainly tastes delicious.

I do not claim this as my own recipe; it was from the blogger named Karen who goes under the title of Cornflower.  

Candlelight at dusk yesterday

We have been warned by the weather forecasters that we’re going to experience yet more rain tonight and tomorrow, flood warnings are in place in some areas, with even the possibility of snow on higher ground.   Never mind, we have a warm home, food in the larder/fridge/freezer, books to read, and an Easter egg from elder son, his wife and our little grandson, and a lovely box of chocolates from younger son, daughter in law and Barry-the-dog.  Indeed, we have much to be thankful for.

I hope you have had a lovely Easter,

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. Oh, that Agatha Christie show sounds like something I would like! I guess I haven’t seen Bill Nighy in a show for a while, so don’t remember that he’s so quiet. Frankly, I have to turn the sound up on all British shows as otherwise I can’t understand what is being said!

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Yes, we enjoyed the Agatha Christie, Jeannine, a typical country house drama – wonderful country house, too; it was filmed in Inverclyde’s Ardgowan House (Scotland), a wonderful setting for this drama which used the sweeping staircase to very good effect. See http://www.ardgowan.co.uk
      Likewise, we often have to put the subtitles on for some American dramas.

  2. First off, I’d like to remark how lucky you are to have received an Easter egg from Barry. All of the dogs I’ve owned over the decades would have eaten the egg, alfoil wrapping and all ! In fact when I was a child we had a Staffordshire terrier (as an only child, he was much more than simply a pet to me and we grew up together, sharing many adventures as well as day-to-day companionship). He would eat ANYTHING. As a pup he once ate a whole tub of margarine (and swelled up considerably), my mother returned home one day to find the fridge open and a week’s worth of meat gone (!), cat food was a delicacy, any food left too close to the edge of the coffee table was fair game in his rules and he was often on hand to ‘clean up’ any dirty faces and hands of my younger cousins during their toddler years. He was such a sport that one of my cousins practically learnt to walk holding onto his tail. Many years later (as an adult an in my own home) I had a German shepherd who would steal food from the kitchen bench if left close to the edge. Needless to say, I learnt this the hard way !

    Your table decorations look lovely. I hope your family were delighted when they saw the table in all its glory. The pavlova (we often simply – and affectionately – call them ‘pavs’) looks delicious. You did well to persist as I would have given up and thrown the lot in the sink after the initial problems with the eggs and sugar ! There is a lovely ‘rivalry’ between Australians and New Zealanders (whom we affectionately call ‘Kiwis’) about which country invented The Pavlova. Of course it was invented in Australia but we sometimes allow the Kiwis to claim it as theirs 😉 I wanted to get in and make that comment before Ratnamuri ha ha.

    Easter did not coincide with school holidays in our state this year (Australian schools have four terms each year and the holidays are determined on a state-by-state basis. We have six states and two territories and private schools often have extra holidays, just so as to complicate matters). Our area is popular with both international and Australian tourists and crowds increase during holiday periods. Traditionally the Tuesday after Easter sees a mass exodus from the towns in our area. Accommodation can be extremely expensive at ‘peak periods’ and people need to return to,school, work, uni, etc.

    The rhubarb cake looks delicious. Alas I have eaten my body weight in (non gluten free) hot cross buns so am on a self-imposed bakery-free regime for a little while. Everything in moderation is the key, so they say, but I’m not good at resisting temptation ! The best (and really the only) way for me is to not have such things in the house. If it’s there, it calls out to me from the pantry, fridge, dark corner – just like the mermaid’s song. My mid section is showing the effects of the good life and I want to be comfortable in my clothes, not restricted and uncomfortable 🙂

    I hope that particular Agatha Christie show comes to,Australian tv. I am feeling starved of a good miniseries at the moment. Our national broadcaster (ABC) showed ‘Howard’s End’ about a month ago. I watched the first of the four parts and agree with you – it was AWFUL ! Many of the actors spoke so fast and some of the casting was dreadful. I didn’t bother watching parts 2, 3 or 4. I’d rather watch paint dry. I’m watching ‘Call The Midwife’ for the umpteenth time. Sister Evangelina is still around. She is one of my favourite characters. I tell you, if I was in a pickle I’d want her on my team. Nothing fazes her and there’s nothing she can’t do 🙂

    Oh dear, my comments are almost as long as your column (again). Well I’ve finished my cup of tea (in bed – looxury!) and need to hurl myself out of bed as this morning is one of the two mornings where I do volunteer work. So shower, dress, breakfast and out the door it is. All the best xx

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Hello, Lara, and I have so very much enjoyed reading your comments and I’m sure other readers will, too. I love the story of your little dog when you were growing up, what a naughty fellow, but terriers (Barry’s a Patterdale terrier, a bit like a Jack Russell but with darker colouring) are crafty little chaps, and Barry would eat anything left lying around, too. I love the story of your little cousins learning to walk by hanging on to his tail!
      Yes, I knew Pavs, as you call them, originated in Australia (or so we understand I the UK), named for the ballerina, Anna Pavlova. We have the same rivalry over pasties, whether they were first invented in Devon or the next door county of Cornwall, also the cream tea, whether that was invented in Devon or Cornwall. The traditional scone, jam and clotted cream ‘cream tea’ I am sure was invented in Devon as he Cornish use ‘splits’ instead of a scone, ‘splits’ being a sweet bread-like bun and not a scone.
      Never mind about writing a long comment, Lara, it’s lovely that you take such an interest in what I’ve written.
      By the way, Barry didn’t give me an Easter egg, that was from elder son, daughter in law and grandson. The box of chocs came from our younger son, daughter in law and Barry. But I’m sure if Barry could’ve carried an Easter egg in his paws he would’ve given me one! He’s not that keen on chocolate, he prefers savoury foods, and yesterday took great delight in having a sprout to eat!

  3. Eloise (thisissixty.blog)a

    We have Ordeal by Innocence ready to watch at a later time during the week. Bill Nighy is a whisperer. My husband, in particular, struggles with mumbling on the TV even though he does not have a hearing problem. It annoys us when the TV companies blame poor sound on the TV, but there’s never a problem with the adverts.
    We love rhubarb so that cake sounds perfect. Another one to try! I like meringue too, but only home made, or a bought soft meringue roulade such as the one that M&S does. I don’t like crisp, hard white meringue. I made Nutella brownies today but I won’t be bothering again. They weren’t chewy enough.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Hello, Eloise, and I’m glad we’re not the only ones who find whispering and mumbling a stuggle. I have good hearing but I’ve just got used to putting the subs on now when many actors are in dramas. Put an old film on, and this isn’t the case, therefore I can only deduce that it’s modern speech that is to blame, sloppy and rushed. No matter how often people complain, it continues, too. No, never a problem with the adverts! I hit the Mute button as soon as they come one.
      If you don’t like those hard meringues, then Pavlova is the thing for you, it’s delicious – well, when made correctly! I will never use granulated sugar again, it must be caster sugar. It tasted fine, but didn’t rise like it normally does. I’ve been using the same recipe since the 1970s and this is my first mini-disaster and all my own fault. But I was really pushed for time as it must be made on the day it is required, keeping it overnight it just goes stickly, so I was making a Pavlova as well as a roast lunch (thank goodness for a double oven.) There again, I used the convector oven, the smaller oven, rather than the circotherm large oven, where I’ve always placed the Pavlova. This might’ve had something to do with the lack of ‘rise’, too.

  4. We did enjoy Ordeal by Innocence Margaret but also found the otherwise delightful Mr Nighy’s mumbling a tad frustrating, well worth the watch though as is Escape to the Chateau, I do like to see what the resourceful Dick and Angel are going to come up with next.
    Reading Lara’s comments on the antics of her family dogs puts me in mind of my old collie who managed to eat both sides of a just baked Victoria Sponge! My Mum had left it to cool on the top of the work surface in the kitchen and said dog managed to jump through the hatch from the dining room and snaffle the cake. There wasn’t a crumb left, in fact my Mum thought she had gone mad and if it wasn’t for the cake tins in the sink waiting to be washed up she would have sworn she had dreamt it all. The inevitable happened and the cake made a reappearance shortly afterwards but other than that my dog suffered no ill effects however Dad did put a small bolt on the hatch to stop her doing it again. Bad dog ☺️

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Hello, Elaine, and it’s wonderful hearing all these doggy tales (or tails!) What a naughy dog, eating the cake, but I’ll bet he felt awful afterwards, small wonder you saw it again! When I was young our family dog was a bad-tempered Corgi (the kind the Queen has), looked like butter-wouldn’t-melt but would nip you ankles if you attempted to go out without her. It’s a wonder she didn’t put me off dogs forever! But we had a cat years ago who was naughty. I made a Victoria sponge one day, and put butter icing through the centre and on top and left it on the kitchen table. For some reason I had to go out and when I returned the cake was still there but all the butter icing had been licked off the top! Of course, the cake then had to go into the bin. I didn’t make the mistake of leaving a cake on the table again!
      So it’s not just me who can’t understand Bill Nighy! C’mon Bill, speak up!

  5. Oh I loved the story of Elaine’s dog bounding through the hatch ! And your story of the icing- eating feline ! I’ve just read those stories out to my husband and we’re both very impressed 🙂

    His elderly parents have a five year old corgi, bought as a five-month old puppy who was as cute as a button and melted all our hearts. They had farewelled their previous corgi (rescued from a kennel when his elderly owner had broken her hip and gone into a care home where animals were not allowed) several months before and were broken hearted. Our current corgi is the most loving, easy-natured and playful dog I’ve ever known. He has never fought with another dog and continues to be intimidated by our (loving to humans but intolerant of dogs) older cat during his regular visits. Corgis are quite rare in Australia these days, having fallen out of fashion since being popular in the 1970s. As such, if we take him out people constantly stop us and want to share their tales (tails) of their parents or grandparents corgis. Ours happily puts on a show, demonstrating how affectionate he is and showing them all his ‘best angles’. We can do almost anything to him -in fact my husband delights in good-naturedly teasing him whenever they play – including regular brushing of his teeth to prevent the return of plaque (which the removal of under anaesthetic cost a small fortune last year 🙁 ). Corgis have the reputation of being short tempered and of nipping at ankles but ours is so affectionate and playful – he has so many toys scattered around his home and knows many by name. He occasionally nips at my husband’s ankles if husband gives chase but I believe it’s because husband has trained/nurtured him to do so, whereas the rest of the family didn’t tolerate any such behaviour. I have warned husband that when this corgi goes to doggy heaven I will need to move away as the grief which swept over the family when the last one died was just awful and I can’t bear to think about when this one’s time comes. But in the meantime he is an absolute delight and is a wonderful distraction for my 90-something yo inlaws with their aching bodies and frustrations with life. I have learnt to ask about the dog if ever the conversation is becoming stagnant or negative and the tone of the conversation changes instantly. He is the best antidepressant money could buy !!

    🙂 🙂 🙂

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      That is amazing, Lara, that you have a Corgi! You hardly ever see them here, either, their having fallen from fashion even though the Queen has them. Does it have a ‘docked’ tail or is this now illegal? Our Corgi had a ‘docked’ tail, but she arrived with us like that. Yes, the death of a much loved pet is really awful – I cried buckets when even our children’s pet hamster died and then I told myself to get a grip, I was crying over the death of a rodent! But he really was adorable! We can’t help but love our pets who share their lives with us, can we? Thank you for taking the time and trouble to tell us all about this much-loved dog.

      • Our corgi has a tail. It is lovely and full, like a fox tail. He is very expressive with it, too. I understand it’s now illegal to dock tails in Australia. Mind you, when you see large dogs with tails – especially those like Doberman, Rottweilers, etc which were always docked – you wonder why we removed them in the first place as they look so ‘balanced’ and a dog’s tail is often a key indicator of its mood. Perhaps it was just ‘the done thing’ or fashionable back then and we now know better. Much like smoking, etc.

        • Margaret Powling
          Margaret Powling

          Yes, it’s hard to imagine docking tails today, isn’t it? I don’t know whether it was simply a fashion trend or to keep their rear ends clean (no tail to get messed with pooh)? Yes, dogs look much more balanced with their tails. I mean, if tails grow naturally, they are obviously meant to have tails.

  6. Whispering is so annoying when we’re watching tv! Plus, I often can’t understand a word that many american actors are saying when they talk really fast. I’m defrosting my 2nd packet of 6 chocolate hot cross buns. So delicious!

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Yes, the Americans usually speak too fast for us, too, Ratnamurti. I don’t know why there is a need for so much rush!
      I’ve never had a chocolate hot x bun, that sounds like a portmanteau food, a chocolate Easter egg blended with a traditional hot x bun (as in a portmanteau word such as Brexit, which stands for Britain’s Exit of the European Community).

      • love it! I shall use that expression – or is it just a word? I think it was commonplace cocoa in the dough, with a few chocolate chips thrown it. Not haute cuisine but a bit delicious.

        • Margaret Powling
          Margaret Powling

          I wish I could think of another example of a portmanteau word, Ratanmurti, but I can’t right now. But that is the correct term for a made-up word, which was originally two other words, such as Brexit.

  7. Eloise (thisissixty.blog)a

    When first married I had a golden retriever who lived until she was twelve. I used to wake up in the night crying because I missed her so much. She was so gentle with the babies as they came along.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      That demonstrates how much you loved your dog, Eloise, crying at night for her. When our boys were young we had Goldie, a tortoishell cat, really gentle, and then Charlie (ginger tom) and Oliver (grey and white) and they were two totally different characters. Charlie was a big soppy bundle of cat, a bit like the children’s programme, Bagpuss, while Oliver was half feral we think (both were rescue cats) and he just wouldn’t look at you, and if you tried to pick him up he just objected and pushed with all his might to get free. But a beautiful looking cat so we just had to admire his feline good looks from afar!

    • The dog I ‘grew up with’, Ralph, (the aforementioned Staffordshire Terrier who would eat ANYTHING) died when I was 23yo and I had already left home. Oh how I bawled for him. That was almost 30 years ago and I still get a pang in my chest when I think of him. I saw a female staffy last week at our little local,shop with very similar markings to him, the first I’d ever seen in all these years. I rang my mum straight away to tell her. We ended the conversation agreeing he was one of a kind. I think we all have one dog, cat, horse or guinea pig who keeps a special place in our hearts – along with all of the other animals we’ve loved but just that little bit dearer. How richer our lives can be with the joy of a pet.

      Gosh I’m sure there are whole blogs devoted to the memories of childhood pets 🙂

      • Margaret Powling
        Margaret Powling

        Yes, pets do enrich our lives, their love is unconditional. Ralph was a real character, no doubt, even though he was naughty at times!

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