Back Soon

So, it turns out that there are a limited amount of weeks in a month, days in a week and hours in a day.  And within these constraints, I have found, it is not possible to do everything one would like to/needs to.  Hence, the blog inactivity.

I will return at some point though.  :)

Selkirk Bannock

Selkirk is a town somewhere in the Scottish Borders.  I’m not entirely sure where.  I’ve heard it’s lovely but I’ve never been there and I know only two things about it.  1.)  It’s the home-town of my friend and the artist who designed my banner, Faye Anderson.  She’s an extremely talented artist.  Animal lovers, you may want to check out her work here.  And 2.) I have this town to thank for my favourite tea loaf.

Selkirk Bannocks are enormous fruit loaves which were traditionally made with leftover bread dough.  In Scotland (and possibly the rest of the UK?) we call this type of enriched, sweet bread a “tea loaf”.   I’m guessing this is because a slice of this spread with butter or jam or both would typically be eaten with a cup of tea mid-morning or afternoon.   It makes a lovely breakfast too though.

I tend to make a smaller loaf than is traditional as there are only two of us in the house.  That said, it keeps well for a couple of days and can be eaten toasted for a good few days after that.

Selkirk Bannock

450g bread flour

Pinch of salt

1 tspn dried active yeast 

30g caster sugar

250ml luke warm milk

75g butter, cut into cubes and softened

200g sultanas

1 small egg, beaten

  • Add the yeast and sugar to the warm milk and stir.  Leave for 15 mins until yeast froths slightly.
  • Meanwhile, add flour and salt to a large bowl.
  • Stir the yeasty milk into the flour and stir to form a sticky dough.  Knead well for 10 mins adding a little more flour if necessary.
  • Place dough in an oiled bowl and leave to rise in a warm place for at least an hour or until dough has doubled in size.
  • Remove dough from the bowl and pull out into a flat shape.  Gradually add a little of the butter and some of the sultanas and knead through thoroughly.  Repeat until all the butter has been amalgamated and the sultanas and evenly spread through the dough. This is a sticky, greasy process.  It does amalgamate eventually, I promise!
  • Shape dough into a ball and place on a floured baking sheet.  Cover with a big bowl that won’t touch the dough and leave in a warm place to double in size again.
  • Meanwhile heat the oven to 180oC.
  • When dough is risen, brush generously with the egg glaze.  Place in the oven and bake for 45 mins or until golden all over and hollow sounding.
  • Cool and serve sliced and smeared with butter and/or jam.

Summer Reading Request 2013

I’ve been reading a lot this year.  Usually I go thought phases of reading feverishly every night and weekend for a month or so then I don’t pick up a book for weeks and weeks on end. This past year, I’ve fallen into a different pattern. I read every day at the moment but I’m in no hurry to finish books at all. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been so very, very busy at work; it is, after all, my main way to relax and I don’t need anymore deadlines. Or maybe I’m just mellowing as I mature… Whatever the reason, I like this steady reading routine that I’ve settled into.

These are my favourite reads from the past year:

The Pursuit of Love – Nancy Mitford

I’m a wee bit obsessed with Nancy Mitford at the moment and am reading everything I can find by and about her. Nothing beats this book though. An extremely funny period romance. One of those books I finished and consider just starting all over again.

Red Dust Road – Jackie Kay

Jackie Kay is a Scottish poet and this is an autobiographical account of her attempts to get to know her birth parents: a Highland woman and a Kenyan man. It’s cracking. Funny and interesting and touching. I devoured this book in a day and I keep telling people to read it.

The Fault in our Stars - John Greene

Am I the last person in the universe to read this? Perhaps. Beautiful, emotional, humorous book. Not going to tell you what it’s about because it’ll sound too depressing and that’s not what this book is. Well, it is. But it’s really, really not too. Read it. Really.

Maine - Courtney Sullivan

Despite the troubled characters and tense conversations, there was something very peaceful about this book. It’s all about a mother and her daughters and a summer house in Maine and it’s really rather beautifully written. I have Sullivan’s other novel, Commencement, in my case for my trip to Italy this summer.

The Accidental Tourist - Anne Tyler

I’ve read several books by Anne Tyler and I recognised many of the characters in this novel. It’s my favourite book of hers so far though. Macon is a travel writer for people who doesn’t like to travel and he finds comfort in the rigid routines of his life. Then everything falls apart. A subtle book that’s stayed with me months and months after reading it.

100 Year Old Man who Climbed Out the Window and Ran Away - Jonas Jonasson

Probably should have put this first on the list. I’ve been giving it to everyone as a present! So much fun! Laughed my way from beginning to end.

Heartburn - Nora Ephron

Wry, funny, semi-autobiographical tale of a pregnant woman whose husband cheats on her.

American Gods - Neil Gaiman

Odd and fascinating novel. It’s a journey through America with ancient Gods who’ve seen better days, ghosts, leprechauns and the idols of the new world. Weirdly addictive.

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So these are my recommendations. With seven weeks of holidays fast approaching, I’d love to hear some of yours. :)