Tag Archives: cold

Welsh Rarebit

I never promised that it would be all fine cuisine around here (quite the opposite, I think) so since we all seem to be freezing our buns off at the moment I thought I’d refer to one of my favourite cold weather comfort foods – something that I happily snaffled for my lunch today and poo to the diet guilt in this cold snap.  I love cheese but God has decreed that hot cheese shall be totally irrestible, both in smell and taste, to all but the steeliest-willed skinniest of skinnies. 

I have quick combos that I love on a cold day: toast one side of a slice of bread under the grill then spread the other with tomato puree (paste), good grated strong Cheddar (the real thing, not that plastic muck that tries to pass itself off as Cheddar) and sprinkle on some dried oregano.   Pop back under the grill and cook until the cheese is melting and just starting to brown.  Voila! –  Pizza Bread!  🙂   I’ve successfully substituted a scraping of Sacla red pesto and then cheese when I don’t have tomato puree (making a kind of Basil-ly pizza bread.  Mmmmmm…).  And for true connoisseurs of the Toast and Cheese Tasters Guild nothing can compare to a scraping of Marmite and then the grated cheese (although if you haven’t tried Marmite before you may want to take it easy with that one – Marmite truly is a product that you either love or hate.  It has been known to make grown men cry).  

Purists, however, will undoubtedly prefer to go through the extra kerfuffle of making proper Welsh Rarebit (also called Welsh Rabbit, although of course no rabbits are actually harmed in the making of it).  Lovely, but I’m normally too much of a gannet to muck around and do things ‘properly’.  Here, however is the authentic recipe for this English (well…Welsh) classic:

Welsh rarebit (Serves 4)

(By the way, the phrase Welsh rabbit was coined in the 18th century to describe this cheese on toast. Some believe it was invented when the Welsh wives spied their menfolk returning empty-handed from the hunt and had to melt cheese as a substitute for game).

This Welsh rarebit with egg is from the Edwardian chef C Herman Senn:

  • 9 oz/255g freshly grated Llangloffan, Caerphilly, Cheshire or Cheddar cheese
  • 1 oz/30g unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp Colman’s English mustard powder, mixed with 1 tsp water
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Salt and pepper
  • Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce (optional) – a few drops of each may be added to the mixture
  • 4 slices of good bread, white or brown, lightly toasted and buttered

Heat the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7. Mix the finely grated cheese with the butter, breadcrumbs, mustard and egg. Beat well, season with salt and pepper to taste and spread thickly on buttered toast. Cook in the oven until golden brown (5-10 minutes).

That’s it.  Enjoy…  And stay warm! 🙂

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Cold apprenticeship

TropicalI read yesterday that 1st October is ‘Central Heating Day’ because it’s the day when many turn their central heating back on.  Now I must say, if that’s true, I don’t understand that kind of pedantic thinking.  Yesterday was glorious and I had the windows and doors open all day, (clearly no point in sticking the heating on just because of a calendar date then) but I’m only too aware that tomorrow may bring eskimo chills, with winds whipping down from the north.  Then I’ll have no hesitation in flipping the switch for a bit of warmth blasting throughout the house.

There is a trend to make people like me feel a little guilty about seemingly unthinkingly flipping the central heating switch.  I have to say, however, you’re not going to easily persuade me to go around in ever increasing layers of woolly pullies as the winter sets in, rather than basking in a generally gloriously warm and welcoming atmosphere.  My home is insulated, doubled glazed and I’ve just gone and ordered some new thickly interlined curtains for the cold months ahead.  I feel I’m being a pretty good citizen therefore and, more to the point, I’m old enough to remember the days pre-central heating and dearly hope never to have to live like that again.

Cold, 2Sure, you can sit around with extra layers on and even blankets over your knees, but when the atmosphere of the whole house chills down things start to become damp and inhospitable.  Getting ready for bed becomes a question of superquick timing to get under the covers as quickly as possible and then curling up like a pill bug until the bed warms up.  On top of that, those bed covers can, in themselves, be slightly damp if you are unlucky enough to live in something like an old granite building (as I once did).  Going to the loo in the night has to be done at speed, so as to not lose too much body heat and getting up in the morning?  Well, there is the real killer.  You’re all toasty under the covers but the almost numbing cold on your nose tells you that ‘out there’ is a different matter.  If you think it’s bad getting up to a 6.30 alarm on a cold winter’s morning now, trust me, that is pure luxury compared to hauling yourself out of the warmth of bed, into the the cold and then stripping off for a wash in an even colder bathroom.  As a child I developed a technique for blasting through to the bathroom for as quick a wash as I could reasonably manage, positioning myself as much as possible under the small electric ceiling heater, and then hopping back into my hopefully still warm bed to put on my school uniform.  Yes, that’s right.  In the very coldest months I actually dressed for the day in bed.

Worst memory of cold winters gone?  That’s a toss up between the damp sheets on the damp bed in the damp granite property I just mentioned and a mercifully short stint in a big empty guest house during the bleak winter months where it was so cold that my breath steamed just standing in the bedroom.

So, it’s October now and very shortly I expect to see articles telling me that I rely too much on central heating.  Maybe so, but you know what?   I feel I’ve done my cold-damp-apprenticeship and I’d like to enjoy a few more winters in the welcoming warmth of my home … before my pension fails to cover my fuel bills and I’ll be full circle, freezing my buns off again.

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Filed under environment, Home

Hibernate

I woke up this morning to read that storms have wacked north and north western France, badly disrupting air and sea travel. I can believe it.  I was listening to the effects during the night.

When the wind blows hard around here a curious ghostly noise emanates from somewhere around our house, a sound like a sigh mixed up with a musical note.  It can be eerie and unsettling.

‘…wwOOOOOhh…   …wwOOOOOhh…’

As I lay curled up in bed last night, the ghostly groans began in the very early hours and continued over and over, repeating in a regular rhythm that made them sound animal in nature.  I snuggled down further, wrapping the quilt up around my head because the pulsing groans began to sound more like the sounds made by a great, slumbering beast that had slumped over and enveloped our house.  The winds increased and plant debris was hurled against our large windows, ticking and knocking for hours on end.  I can tell you that at that point I was curled up tight like a pill bug and burrowed deep down under cover, grateful to be cocooned in the warmth and safety of my bed.

I heard very recently that up until the 20th century Breton peasants would virtually hibernate during the winter months.  Not hibernate in the sense of a dormouse with physical bodily changes, but ‘hibernate’ as in staying in, all snuggled together, snoozing the cold winter months away and only awaking periodically to take vital sustenance. 

That strikes me as a very good idea.

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Draw the drapes / Close the curtains

Victorian households had a rota of Summer and Winter curtains to use.  The Winter set was heavy and thick, designed to stop draughts that seeped through windows, while the Summer set was the opposite, designed to allow the morning light to flood in and the air to flow.

Many houses now have dispensed with curtains entirely, relying year-round on blinds and while they look nice, they don’t offer the extra Winter insulation of a thick set of curtains. 

If you already have curtains, at this time of year take advantage of their insulating qualities by drawing them as soon as the sun sets. 

Ordinary curtains can be made to retain more heat by sewing cheap PVC shower curtains to the back of them and then finishing with layer of lining fabric.  Failing that, old flannelette sheets or even thin blankets would work well as the inner, insulating layer. 

Don’t worry if you’re no seamstress – fabric glue will work in place of stitching to secure the layers.

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Filed under General house tips, money saving