Dear Reader, I can only applaud you for sticking with me after last week’s empty blog post calamities! Lately, I seem to have acquired a cottage full of gremlins which has reduced me to some very unladylike language. I wondered if Debretts have a section on appropriate words to use in such circumstances. Note to self: must refer to their Guide to Etiquette and Modern Manners when dealing with broadband customer service call centres, children who won’t do as they are told and the bl***y old biddies and Chelsea tractor owners who keep pinching all the parking spaces in our road…. Anyway to add more insult to injury, a crockpot of kitchen disasters also fell upon the cottage last week. Poppy’s pre-birthday birthday party meant that I had to resort to my dreadful baking skills. Dear Reader, you may well be asking yourself why I did not buy the birthday cake. Yes…..that would be a good question. It is true that scones, biscuits, even the odd macaroon I can rustle up. Birthday cakes, I definitely cannot. Remarkably depressing when you try all sorts of recipes and even attempt to channel some Hummingbird Bakery magic (dearest Barbara bought me a HB book for my birthday and I haven’t managed a single recipe without a culinary cock up). Since I endeavour each year to make Primrose’s birthday cake, I thought that it just wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t provide Poppy with the same opportunity to ‘enjoy’ a lead-like taste experience and overambitious cake design! Primrose’s toadstool cake this year looked amazing (I had a lot of help from dear Mamma with that one) but tasted hideous. Luckily I didn’t serve it to any parents and the 4 year olds at the party were too full up with jelly boats and fairy cakes to eat any of it. Undeterred, I decided to climb Mount Everest once more and upscaled a HFW recipe for Poppy’s ‘cat’ bitrthday cake. That may have been my first mistake. I set about creating a chocolate cat and was not successful at all. My cat looked more like it had feline palsy and the head was too small for the body. Apparently, you need to measure cake tins rather more accurately than I did. With no option but to serve it, as my guests were due to arrive imminently, I simply poured yet more melted chocolate onto the top and then added a pink bow in a nod to ‘Hello Kitty’. I hid it at the back of the kitchen and told Jerry (on pain of death) that we would not be letting anyone consume any. A quick rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’, a candle blown out and then cake quickly squirreled away. Mission completed and no class action for food poisoning. All in a day’s work for Margot. I must be about the only person not to like cake which doesn’t help either as I have neither patience for the process or a desire to eat the fruits of my labour. Only last week, my dear friend Edie, had the cheek to suggest that I was a baking fraudster and that she was not entirely convinced of my inability to make cakes. I can (hand on heart) promise that if she had tried Poppy’s birthday ‘cat’ cake, she would have acquiesced and issued a damning judgement on my baking talent.
On a cheerier note, Edie did make a special trip to follow my Christmas chutney on its journey to stardom and dragged her hubby all the way to the WI’s Real Jam Festival 2012 at Denman College. Margot’s Christmas Allsorts (had no idea what else to call it) sat remarkably plain (less is more…) amongst some serious contenders. Well it was a WI comp after all. Jam and chutney entries were judged by the likes of Pam ‘The Jam’ Corbin, whose preserving prowess knows no bounds. She has even taught the dear HFW at River Cottage a few tricks or two. Primrose had been asking me for weeks if my chutney had cut the mustard and I am proud to announce, dear Reader, that it most certainly had! No awards this time but a none too shabby 15.5 out of 20. For a preserving and pickling virgin, I was thrilled with the score. I lost marks on the jam jar but was tickled pink that I had made it to the judging table at all. Margot’s Christmas Allsorts was commended as a ‘well cooked chutney’ with a ‘strong spicy flavour.’ Who knows what Margot’s Christmas Allsorts might have achieved if I hadn’t taken the instructions on labelling the entry etc so literally!
The success has left me wondering if I should ditch all further baking attempts in favour of churning out chutney from now on! I have certainly been bitten by the preserving bug and intend to try my hand at some more chutney challenges. (Edie, you have created a monster and you only have yourself to blame)! Tempted by a few of the courses they run, I might drop Jerry a hint or two. The purveyors of Tracklements condiments are safe for the time being but perhaps not for long. Wait until I get an industrial sized chutney pan! Now onwards to the next country challenge…..