It’s a while since I managed to write a post here, and even longer (about a month) since I was able to pay close attention to the many excellent blogs I follow. The same has been true of my other (photo) blog, grumpytykepix. It’s been due to a combination of diversions:

  • getting a new website/blog ‘live’ for my employer;
  • getting embroiled in a campaign fighting inappropriate development in the village in which I live, which has revealed at best incompetence in the local (Bradford) council, at worst possible corruption – all this as part of authoring a WordPress blog for my village;
  • being commissioned to author a column in a local weekly newspaper covering forthcoming events in my village and a nearby small town, Otley (yesterday was the fifth appearance);
  • being diverted by a wonderful 88 year old lady who telephoned me to ask whether her family history might be interesting for an article in the paper (it’s fascinating!).

Fewston (Washburn Valley, Yorkshire) Marriages

I’m not ready yet to reveal the identity of my octogenarian or say much about her but so far the story has taken me to a local museum, a local cemetery and consumed hours of searching archives, such as the one pictured, on internet. As a result I’ve managed to identify some of her ancestors back to 1829, which has been a delight to her. But I still have many leads to follow up.

She is concerned that her memory is failing and as she is ‘last of the line’ the family history will die with her unless it is set down. Being last of the line and living alone she is also rather lonely, so an excuse to visit her once a week with the latest ‘tidbit’ is just what was needed, not to mention the glass (or more) of ‘Croft’s Original’ she insists on plying me with; fortunately she lives only a few minutes walk from me, so no driving.

Eventually her story will certainly make a post, or more, on this blog; a page, or more, on the village blog; possibly a feature in a local paper or magazine; and even maybe a book which I’ll gladly ‘ghost’ for her.

Gambling is taking over late night TV and the high street here in the UK. The amount of money being ploughed into the betting shops and TV advertising indicates very clearly that more and more money is being taken from the punters, and of course a large number of them tend be people who are not well off and even in financial difficulties.

What’s more disgusting is that the UK’s National Lottery has jumped on the band wagon, doubling the ticket price and hanging out more and bigger prizes to entice the suckers. I have had a line on the National Lottery on each of the two gambles a week for several years now. The odds are greatly against winning much of course, but at £1 a time it seemed worth a go. Now it’s been put up to £2; I’ve reduced my submission to once a week. Addiction to gambling is something I’ve never been able to understand, but if anyone had an experience likely to get them hooked it was me. It’s a good story so I thought I’d set it down.

A champagne moment

Ayala (left) winning the Grand National on 31 March 1963

Gambler’s dream? No, it happened

Ayala Champagne; an advertisement from when it was a small, independent house

Ayala Champagne past advertising

In March 1963 I had just begun to work, in a lowly position, as a journalist. Money was extremely tight but there was a very beautiful young lady who had agreed to go out for dinner with me. We went to a central London restaurant – somewhere near Leicester Square. I can’t remember what we ate, but I shall never forget what we drank: Ayala champagne.

In those days Ayala was a small, independent champagne house growing its own grapes on 40 hectares near the towns of Aÿ and Mareuil-sur-Aÿ. Although not considered one of the greatest houses, it had a reputation for a particularly dry champagne (‘goüt anglais’), my taste, and had been favoured by Kings Edward VII and George VI. In 2005 the ‘chateau’ was bought by the Bollinger champagne house, without the vinyards, and is now made from grapes acquired through the massive grape purchasing power of Bollinger. According to Tim Hall in his blog Scalawine, to which I am grateful for the historical information, it is a “Champagne Phoenix indeed” and his tasting notes for the bruts assure me that I’ll like it a lot if I take a bottle now (maybe for Christmas – maybe I’ll win the Lottery :-) !).

What has all this got to do with gambling?

Having taken the young lady home, and subsequently arrived home myself, I woke the next morning, 31 March, to find I had just one £5 note (no credit cards then) to last until the end of April (having gone on the spree with my March salary).

Now, horse racing has never interested me, but the name ‘Ayala‘ jumped off the newspaper page on the day of the Grand National. I read that this horse was an outsider, with odds of 66:1. I also read that it was owned (or rather part-owned) by the celebrity hairdresser of the time (the first real ‘celebrity hairdresser’ who subsequently trained Vidal Sassoon), Teasy-Weasy, real name Peter Carlo Bessone Raymond.

I went into a betting shop for the first time in my life. I put my £5 note on the counter and, no messing, “Put it all on Ayala to win”, I said.

Ayala powered through in the last few moments to just be first to the winning post (left horse in the picture above) and I collected £330 – that’s about £5,500 in today’s money by the most conservative estimate.

But it didn’t change my view of gambling; I’ve never been in a betting shop since and, apart from my minimal weekly Lottery flutter, have never gambled in any other way since either.

When I asked for suggestions for a cake to enter in the village show I commented that my favourite cake, Reine de Saba, would not likely be a good choice as it has an unusual texture. The same is true of the two suggestions I chose to make so it was no surprise to me that neither got into the prizes, but it was fun to ‘compete’.

I made the ‘Beetroot cake with mascarpone and raspberries’, suggested by blogger Georgina at The Fresh Princess of Bel Air, original recipe by Lily Vanilli, a couple of days before. The chocolate cake, suggested by Tracey at ‘foodandforagehebrides‘, original recipe from Delia Smith, was made on the morning of the show. I won’t give the recipes here; just follow the previous links to go to them.

However, my experience may be of interest as I’d say don’t make either of them for an important occasion before doing a trial run or you may not get what you expect.

Beetroot cake

Georgina suggested using a processor to grate the beetroot. Personally I have an aversion to machines in the kitchen (I’ve never come across a machine which can compete with a big hand balloon whisk and a copper bowl for beating egg whites) and grating the 500g of beetroot was quick and easy – I just put a polythene bag over each hand, secured with elastic bands around the wrist, grating them into a stainless steel colander over a stainless steel bowl to catch the juice. It took a few minutes then seconds to rinse them out; I hate to think how long it would have taken to clean my wife’s food processor had I used that.

Georgina commented that the unbaked mix was very liquid and needed far longer in the oven than the recipe for a test probe to come out clean. With that in mind I pressed out some of the juice when in the colander. I think it was a mistake as the end result indicated to me it should have been wetter. I baked it for the recommended 35 mins but I think it should have been quite a lot longer. However, the short cooking meant the top of the cake still had a wonderful beetroot colour so I decided not to cover it completely with mascarpone, leaving a rim of cake showing. I didn’t like the idea of chives on top so did a bit more decoration with the raspberries and some mint leaves. I’m sure when the show judges took the tiny slice and found a very strange texture that put paid to any prize; they’d been sampling some good but conventional sponges! It really does taste great though.

Chocolate cake

I followed Delia Smith’s original recipe almost exactly but it did not ‘work’ as suggested. Perhaps it was my ingredients.

The two halves of the cake came out of the oven just as intended – perhaps because I’m used to making the Reine de Saba which is similar though it does have a little flour. However, although I soaked the stated amount of prunes in the correct amount of armagnac for three days, the puree (here I did use an electric liquidiser) came out far too thick and stiff to spread on the very delicate cake so I had to ‘water’ it down, first with more armagnac but, when that began to get too expensive, with water until it became spreadable. The same happened with the melted chocolate (don’t know why as I’m quite used to doing this for souffles) and again I had to dilute it to be able to spread it on the cake ( I couldn’t find 75% cocoa solids chocolate so used half 70% and half 90%).  Again, the show judges probably wrote it off for not having the texture of the sponge cakes they had been ‘tasting’. Yet again, however, I can tell you the cake is delicious.

I also had a suggestion from my Canadian/Romanian blogger at ‘fotogfoodie’ for what sounds like a super cheese cake, but as it is not cooked I decided it was probably not appropriate for a ‘baking’ competition. I’ll be making it for some guests in the future though.

PS. Something crazy has been going on in the email linked to this blog and I just found 137 ‘valid’ notification messages in ‘spam’, dating back to mid August. This is alongside the reader going awry from time to time, not just for me I understand. So one or two of my recent comments about ‘missing’ bloggers may have sounded odd. 

I consider myself very lucky as through things I do, day to day including my work, I learn of some of the amazing things our oft derided youngsters do. 

The latest is about 14 lower sixth formers from the excellent high school within our village boundary – St Mary’s Menston.

St Mary's Menston pupil Hannah Smith reads abut football to South African children

Hannah Smith, pupil at St Mary’s Menston, reads Frank Lampard to Zulu children

St Mary's pupil Kavindu Appuhamy gives an African child a lesson about rhinos, or is it the other way round?

St Mary’s pupil Kavindu Appuhamy gives an African child a lesson about rhinos, or is it the other way round?

I mentioned in an earlier post that I recently created a blog/website for the Wharfedale, Yorkshire, village in which I live – Menston. Looking around for news as the schools started up again after the summer break I found out about the latest phase in a project in which St Mary’s is involved, now in its seventh year.

Bambisanani

It’s called Bambisanani. That’s Zulu for … … … if you want to know you’ll have to go to the whole story, with more pictures, which you’ll find from a link on the latest post on the village website at:

http://menstonvillagewharfedale.com/2013/09/07/menston-village-school-in-south-africa-new-weekday-cycling-group-village-show/

Although the project revolves around sport and leadership, the Menston pupils also taught maths, science, history, chess, dance, football, rounders and netball while they were at Mnyakanya School in the deprived Nkandla region of Kwa Zulu Natal.

Cakes for the village show

Many thanks for the suggestions for cakes to enter in the village show on Saturday. I’ve chosen two unusual ones (which probably means they’ll get nowhere in the prizes even if I succeed in making them well). The first I’ll be making when I’ve finished this post – Beetroot cake with mascarpone and raspberries – thanks to blogger ‘Georgina’; the second I’ll be making the evening before – Chocolate prune and armagnac cake, a Delia Smith recipe - suggested by another of my favourite bloggers.

Other suggestions I’ll be making just for my own enjoyment sometime in the future. When I do I’ll let you know.

Lofty, our VW camper, was clearly happy with his new clutch and gave us not a second’s ‘bother’ during our trip to the English Lakes and the north Yorkshire coast.

Lofty, VW camper, on Whitby harbour

Seen from the steps up to Whitby abbey, Lofty waits patiently for us on the harbour below

The weather was wonderful for our first two days in the very beautiful Borrowdale, where we found a new (to us) campsite. Then, with the weather set to change, we beetled (or rather campered) over to the east coast, where the sun was hot and brilliant for the rest of our stay, on our favourite campsite at Robin Hood’s Bay.

The Borrowdale campsite, just past the turn to the village of Stonethwaite on the B5289 from Keswick, is simple with limited facilities – just a couple of showers for men and a couple for women, the same with toilets (with two more undesignated) – but clean and adequate and cheap at £6/person a night (half that for children).

Over to the North Yorkshire coast

As the weather began to change we motored the 120 miles or so over to the Yorkshire coast, managing to find the only LPG station for miles in Penrith so crossed over without having to change to petrol at double the running cost per mile. Whitby greeted us with hot, bright sunshine though rather windy. No cooking after the trip as you shouldn’t visit Whitby without eating fish and chips – not at the ‘famous’ place, but ‘Mister Chips’ just over the bridge, which is the best. Then, after a climb up to the abbey, off to Robin Hood’s Bay to park up with a wonderful view over the bay towards Ravenscar (Hooks House Farm).

Abandoning Lofty the next day we had a bacon and eggs etc al fresco breakfast in the village, overlooking the bay. Then, after a leisurely walk along the beach making it to Boggle Hole before the sea cut us off, back along the cliffs for a pint at the Bay Hotel, known as the end point of the Coast to Coast Walk. A climb up the steep village street back to Lofty. No driving at all that day.

The next day it was a visit to the lovely little fishing village of Staithes with a treat of Staithes cobble cake (apricots, walnuts, cinnamon, filled with apple and served hot with cream), and again a steep climb back to Lofty as there’s no parking in the village. On to the equally appealing but very different Runswick Bay with another pint in the Royal overlooking the shore. Then a lovely run back home over the North Yorks moors.

The picture is Petronela’s. I’ve abandoned the digital camera completely except for work and I didn’t have time to get my films developed before work tomorrow. I hope when I do I’ll have some worth posting on grumpytykepix.

Thanks for the cake suggestions

Thanks for the responses on a suggested cake to make for the village show (previous post). I’ll be posting on that later.

I’m looking for suggestions for a cake to submit in the ‘annual show’ for the village in which I live – Menston – in Wharfedale, Yorkshire. The class is ‘My favourite cake’ and, very quaint, there is one class for women and one class for men!

Cakes for village show

Cakes for a village show

There are over 80 classes in all. If you are interested in how one English village show competition is organised you can go to a new blog I’ve recently created for the village, in which I’ve listed all the classes under ‘Events’:

http://menstonvillagewharfedale.com

My favourite cake is in fact ‘Reine de Saba’, as I mentioned some time ago on this blog (it’s under ‘Food’ on the top menu) but it doesn’t look very prepossessing, especially as the centre is deliberately left un- or under-cooked, which might be seen as a ‘mistake’ if you don’t know the cake. The original recipe actually calls for it to be covered in butter icing, but in the first place I don’t like butter icing and the second I think it would completely overpower the cake.

I enjoy decorating cakes when I have the time but for this purpose I don’t think it should rely on decoration; it should just be an extraordinarily good cake!

So, if you’ve blogged about a cake you think would make a good submission to the show please leave a comment with a link to your post about it (or a suggestion even if you haven’t blogged about it).

Many thanks

_________________________________________________________________________

Thanks Georgina. WordPress won’t let me post a reply to your comment so I’m putting it as an edit on the post: - I’ve had a meander through your archives and I’ve put ‘Beetroot cake with mascarpone and raspberries’ on my ‘possibles’ list because: I love raspberries, you say it’s not too sweet, we eat cornmeal mush (‘polenta’ – mamaliga in Romanian) quite a lot, it’s got ginger in it, and it’s a crazy idea! Lemon drizzle, which I make quite a lot, and Victoria sponge, are likely to have a lot of competition (and I don’t consider ‘baking’ to be top of my cooking skills) as staple village show cakes, so something ‘completely different’ seems like a good idea.

My 1972 VW T2 crossover (‘early’ front, ‘late’ back) Bay camper, Lofty, is running about spritely again. My luck was in on Friday (see previous post) and although some M62 motorway motorists seemed to be a bit put out as my speed gradually dropped to 20mph or less on any upward incline, the badly slipping clutch got me the 85 miles to Chester to have a new unit fitted. To celebrate we wore our Lofty T-shirts today.

VW T2 T-shirts

Welcome to Yorkshire from Lofty at the Cow and Calf on the front of our T-shirts; back to Yorkshire on the backs.

The clutch was in a real mess but I was lucky again: one side of the friction plate, though worn, was intact; the other side was really broken up but this was not the flywheel side – had it been the flywheel side it might have been a long time to back on the road, and very costly.

Might make a little trip next week before it’s back to school/work on 5 September. I’ll let you know.

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