May 2007

from the ground up: bread (home made, of course), butter, seeded mustard, ham, onion, cheese, salami, hardboiled eggs, cucumber, tomato, lettuce, mayo, bread.

Heaven on a sandwich. strictly to be eaten during a late night IRC session.

if you click the more….. i take no responsibility for destruction of keyboards through droolage.



Starting to be recovered from a hectic weekend: Sez’s visit, some other friends visiting Saturday afternoon, then the collection of a computer from freecycle early sunday morning left me rather tired yesterday, and its only now that i’m starting to feel a bit more recovered (and been cooking up a storm this afternoon!).


Chocolate Beer CakeI think i said before that Sarah (of …it really doesn’t matter about the rain) is visiting for a few days tomorrow. Its also her birthday today (16th), so i promised her a chocolate cake for her birthday. So i made her a Chocolate Beer Cake. It looks scrummy, and what i’ve been able to taste of it (raw cake – its my belief that you can tell how good a cake will be, in potential, at least, by tasting the raw, mixed ingredients – and the icing – licking the spoon is a cook’s prerogative) its very very nice. the cake is dark, rich, crumbly, the icing lovely. A real grown-up’s chocolate cake. If it were me though, and i were doing it again (which i probably will), i’d make all plain icing (leave out the walnuts) and put some black cherry sauce in the middle, and some chocolate dipped cherries ontop. Or some other strong, not too sweet fruit. Ah well. Next time.

We’ve plans to visit a not-for-profit community nursery while she’s here, and have an afternoon window shopping around Ashton Under Lyne. Maybe make some bread. Either way, i’m hoping for photos. Taken by both of us. (of course, she’s far better at taking pics than i am, so i might just let her do most of them). She may even let me post them. 🙂

overview of the gardenYou’d think i’ve got lots to show you, since i haven’t blogged for a week.. i have, but not cos i’ve been working all week in the garden! quite the contrary, i’ve been rather down, mostly cos of the weather.

But today the weather was fine so i took the opportunity to get out there and get some jobs done. And of course i’ve photos to share of the progress i’ve made.. but until then i’ve some other photos taken during the course of the last week or so, that i must share first (behind the cut, as usual):


~ to make bread rolls ~

making bread rolls

  1. Follow the bread making instructions on the main bread page up to and including point 6.
  2. making bread rollsKnock back the dough, and knead lightly for a few minutes. then cut the dough roughly in half. Put one half to one side. Cut the other half in half again, and then again, and then again, so you wind up with 8 small pieces of dough.
  3. roll the dough pieces lightly into a short fat sausage shape. i like to cut a slash along the top, but you can roll your rolls into whatever shape you like. I rather like them to be all odd sizes, it makes them definetly home made, but if you want regular shapes you could try cutting dough circles with a cookie cutter.
  4. Then repeat with the other half of the dough – or you could, as i did here, make that half into a loaf.
  5. bread making rollsput the dough pieces on a flat baking tray to rise. You do need to give them space to grow, as they will grow, but it doesn’t matter if, once they’re grown, they’re touching each other – you can just pull them apart once they’re baked, much like storebought rolls. Cover the tray with a clean teatowel and leave it in a warm place to rise (much like the instructions for loaves) for about an hour.
  6. making bread rollsOnce risen, put into a 220*C/425*F/Gas Mark 7 oven for about 20 minutes, or until the top is brown and the bottoms sound hollow when tapped. tip onto a wire rack to cool. If you want softer tops, cover with a clean tea towel till cool, as it traps the steam and makes the crust softer.

for trouble busting, see the main bread page, or use the contact form to ask me privately. 🙂


Today is Remembrance Day in the Netherlands.

Its something i want to write about because it’s a special day to him, and its fast becoming a special day to me too, as i learn more about the country that Michiel comes from.

[For some reason, and i am not quite sure why: Remembrance Sunday, in the UK, the sunday closest to November 11 (the day the guns fell silent at the end of WWI) doesn’t affect me as strongly as Remembrance Day on 4th May. I think its partly because Remembrance Sunday has always seemed so jingoistic, so military to me, only commemorating those who were soldiers of some kind, whereas the Dutch commemorate ALL those that died, whether fighting for their country (whichever side they were on), in camps of one kind or another, through hunger, or air raids.. the list could go on.]

The reason today is Remembrance Day in the Netherlands is down to the end of WWII. *smiles*.. a little history lesson, now.. so bear with me. Go back in time to 1939, when war broke out. Initially The Netherlands tried to declare their neutrality, just as they had in WWI, however that ended on 10th May 1940 when the German army launched one of their blitzkreig attacks and quickly overan large parts of the country. By May 14, fighting was sporadic, but the Luftwaffe bombed Rotterdam (second largest city in the Netherlands) that day, killing 800 people and leaving 78,000 homless. The Dutch government capitulated, fled – with the royal family – to the UK, and from there to Canada. The Nazis set about systematically plundering the country, sending its jewish population to extermination camps (100,000 Jewish people were murdered, including Anne Frank, from Amsterdam) and putting their own man in command – Seyys-Inquart (who was sentenced to death at Nuremburg).

Scroll forward to D-Day, 1944. The Allies landed in France and wanted to move quickly across Europe. They recognised the sooner the war was over, the more people would be saved – particularly in extermination camps, the knowledge of which was known to the Allies. In September 1944 they tried to take the bridge at Arnhem – which failed – and they gave up (then) on liberating The Netherlands north of the river at Arnhem, which was the large bulk of the country. Instead the Allies pressed eastwards to Germany and Berlin to try to end the war. The winter that followed, the winter of 1944/45 was one of the most savage in years – the weather, combined with food deprivations caused by the war led to many people starving, and that winter is now referred to as “Hongerwinter” (Hunger Winter). The majority of the Netherlands remained under Nazi occupation until the Nazi surrender on May 5th. It was Canadian troops that finally liberated the majority of The Netherlands from the Nazis, and this, coupled with the country giving their royal family a safe haven during the war, has led to many years of closeness between the two nations. [Note: the larger Dutch kingdom, with its colonies would not be totally free from war until August 1945 with peace in the Far East.] This is something i learned a great deal about on our last visit to the Netherlands, when Michiel and i took the time, on a visit to Amsterdam to go around the Verzetsmuseum, the Dutch Resistance Museum. I strongly recommend anyone with an interest in this, and who is going to Amsterdam, to spare at least 4 hours to go there.

Scroll forward to Post 1945; the Dutch government/people decided that May 4th would be Remembrance day, and May 5th would be Liberation Day, when freedom everywhere is celebrated. Although initially Remembrance Day was to remember those who died in WWII, this has subsequently been extended to those who died in other wars, including those who died in Kosovo.

The structure of the commemorations take the form of flags flying at half mast for half the day; church bells ringing for 15 minutes before 8pm Dutch time, a church service held at a church in Amsterdam, services in a couple of squares in Amsterdam, different wreaths are laid for different groups, poems are read by children, then a two minute silence is held.

In The Netherlands there is a place, a windswept plain outside The Hague, where 253 resistance fighters were shot, called Waalsdorpervlakte. After the war it was turned into a monument; bronze crosses mark the places where people were shot, and in 1958 a large bell (see picture above) was erected there. This bell starts to ring slightly before the two minute silence starts (between 7.30pm and 7.45pm), stops briefly for the two minute silence, then continues until the last visitor to the monument has left. The sound of the bell is absolutely haunting; mournful, heavy, a slow, leaden tolling, rather than the joyful peal that so many associate with church bells. The fact that you *know* it rings for one reason and one reason only, cuts through eveything else when you hear it, stopping you dead and focusing your thoughts on the reason for the bell.

This part never fails to bring me to tears. Each year, Michiel and i observe the two minute silence at 7pm (The Netherlands is 1 hour ahead of us). Each year, we reach out to each other in remembrance. Each year we silently thank the millions who gave their lives to keep the world free, each year we silently commemorate the past with the admonition: never again.


Two Minutes of silence ( Michiel van Wessem – 04 – 05 – 2005 )

Silence …
two minutes silence
silence to remember
to think of our freedom


Silence, all around me
silent and thank full
for the peace, for them
who fought for our peace


2 minutes silence for all the suffering
silently reflecting in yourself
to think, that once ago
someone did this for us


Being silent, with pride
that we can be free
and for that freedom
those two minutes silence
really is not enough


silent, together with everyone
that once was and may never happen again
being silent, just being alone
on that single day


2 minutes silence
just once a year
2 minutes silence for all our freedom
is that not slightly strange?


But in those two minutes
we think of those who for us
gave their life to defend
that what we treasure most


silence, with pride and honour
for us, to be free
thank you will see, that 2 minutes
really is not enough


lets be silent, just you and me
lets be silent and thankfull
lets just be still, for just
two little minutes ….


and remember, that now …
we have peace.


Seems i’m not the only bright spark to think of making my own version of the “I’m not a plastic bag” bag. Marissa Vandersee has come up with her own version: the “I’m not a smug twat” bag. Its greener, doesn’t use cheap labour to create it (or, as she put it, other people’s cheap labour) and is almost 100% made in the UK, with just one type of material coming from Italy.

Good for her – I love the message on the bag – and it really takes the wind out of the whole “I’m not a plastic bag” exclusivity. Its a real shame, because that idea could’ve been really great, if they’d a) given the profits to charity, b) made it much less exclusive, c) sourced the labour and materials from within the UK.

Good luck to Marissa Vandersee – and if you want one, you can order it here.

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