July 19, 2021 by Mike Madden

Tarts And Cakes And Penalties

Back To Normal?

Are you ready to return to normal? I certainly am. Last week I went in to Tesco and had got more than half way round the shop before I remembered to put my mask on, and no one commented!

Predictably our holiday to the Dominican Republic got cancelled again, it is now scheduled for April 2022, although now the Dominican Republic is on the red list! However, April is a long time off. Of more concern is our trip to Spain. That was due to start in July, but Easyjet cancelled the flights. So, it moved to August. Fingers are well and truly crossed!

The Vegetable Patch

Of course, with the vegetable patch in full production we won’t go hungry, as long as we can survive on radishes and lettuce. The runner beans are some way off, though the carrots might be about ready, and I dug up the first potatoes yesterday.

Its a bit early for the tomatoes, and although the broccoli initially got chewed up there are now some healthy plants growing. The peas were not so lucky, I have maybe one or two plants to produce a summer and autumn of peas. The sprouts are intriguing. A couple of them got nibbled but whatever was nibbling didn’t like the taste. The remaining 8 are growing healthily and should be just about ready for Christmas!

Elsewhere, I asked Sally to bring back some sweet pea seeds. She returned with chives. These herbs are quite easy to grow, but not as pretty! Anyway, Ive since planted plenty of sweet peas and sunflowers to provide some colour in July and August.

The initial crop of radish was vibrant!

In The Kitchen

As ever it has been busy in the kitchen, and I came across a recipe for crumble cake. The bottom part is a fruit sponge, and the top is a fruit crumble. What’s not to like? I began with raspberry and fig, but my favourite is definitely apple and blackberry!


Apple & Blackberry or Fig & Raspberry – you decide!

I also made a perennial favourite – Bakewell Tart!

And of course Bakewell Tart is just one of the many recipes in my latest book. The imaginatively titled Mmm…No2…Cookbook is a sequel to Mmm…No1…Cookbook, but don’t expect a quick third edition. It has taken nine years to produce this second tome.

I finally released it on Amazon in June, and it is available on Kindle or paperback.

Mmm…No2…Cookbook on Amazon

Back to the garden and we got a reasonable crop of gooseberries. I rustled them up into gooseberry, almond and apple tarts. They went down so well that I had to make some more the following day. Definitely candidates for Mmm…No3…Cookbook.

Elsewhere in the kitchen I drove down to Rusholme last week and bought a huge assortment of spices. Many of the ones I have at home are 10+ years old, and although they don’t really go off they certainly lose a bit of their sparkle. So, armed with star anise, cardamoms, fenugreek and ajwain I set about making completely fresh balti garam masasla and balti paste.

This is the garam masala ready for grinding.

You can expect pics of different balti curries in a few weeks time (usually about 6 weeks for the taste to mature), and in the meantime for that authentic curry smell just nip round to my kitchen!

And whilst on the subject of curries, what has happened to the “curry mile”? This quintessentially British phenomenon has been infiltrated by steak houses and barbeque pits, barely an elephant’s trunk kebab shop to be seen. Fortunately the Worldwide Foods supermarket has survived.

Zac finished school for the summer, and he naturally went out to celebrate. When he came home I heard a lot of noise in the kitchen so I went to see what he was up to. In a throwback to Phoenix Nights, he was cooking oven chips in a frying pan (the clue is in the name). However, he persevered and claimed that the taste was even better. I suspect that was the alcohol speaking.

Meanwhile Sally is exploring the possibility of those boxes of food that are a complete recipe. You just order it, cook it and eat it.

She is even considering her own range – I think she could be on to something!

Sport For All

Sport made a welcome return earlier in the year, and Zac made the most of it playing in goal for Whaley Bridge Under 18s. In a tense cup tie at Stockport Vikings the game finished 1-1. In the evening gloom it went to penalties and Whaley missed early. Zac saved, Whaley scored, then Zac saved again. Another goal from Whaley meant that Zac had the chance to win it…

The following week glorious April burst into life with a hailstorm in Offerton as Zac played against Hillgate Boys Club, and the cricket season began in the lowest temperatures and most miserable conditions I can remember for several years.

I played against Broadbottom 3rd XI and scored a 50 – still got it in my 60th year, but my legs were stiff for days. A couple of weeks later I smashed a quick 31 against Old Glossop. However, a pulled knee caused some discomfort, and in a T20 game a few days later that worsened into a tweaked hamstring. Of course, I didn’t think it was that bad, and 3 days later I played again, the result of which was a grade 3 hamstring tear. Four weeks and several physio sessions later I tested it in another T20 fixture. It failed – so now I am waiting for another opportunity towards the end of July.

Ole also suffered an injury playing football for Chapel. He had been playing well for the seconds and got asked to play for the firsts. He was sub, and complained that he had felt something in the warm up. Like father like son, he came on and lasted just four minutes before retiring injured. He made his comeback at Dove Holes, and somehow got cramp in both legs. He seems to be over the worst for now, but then he is not almost 60!

The Euros came and went with some very entertaining games and a lot of alcohol consumed. The Drum And Monkey did an outstanding job of hosting our regular trips down the lane, though unfortunately they could not guide us through penalties. Perhaps Jordan Pickford should have copied Zac’s technique.


Never really thought DIY would be a section in my blog, but after the benches, the seat and the cold frames, I decided to make a fountain in the part of our garden that has become known as “The Gypsy Camp”.

Digging out was surprisingly easy, then I inserted a plastic bucket, covered it with a sieve, bought a pump with tubing from Amazon, and an ornamental head from an online garden centre. The whole thing was finished off with a few ornamental pebbles, and it works quite well. When the plants have grown to cover up the few bits of structure that are visible my work will be complete!

I also decided that I should have a clay oven in the garden. So, I ordered a handmade one from Fuego, made with real Spanish clay! Fortunately the lead time is 15 weeks. Fortunately, because it needs a cover to shelter it from the elements. I was thinking a lean to type structure, and the builder could also build the brick base for the oven which weighs, quite literally, a ton.

I was thinking that this type of lean to would suffice for the pizza oven!

However, when Sally got hold of the plans they seemed to escalate out of control. RSJs were mentioned, extensions, foundations and all manner of garden structures.

I think she based her plans on this…

Getting Away

Despite the lockdown restrictions we have managed to get away a couple of times. One of these was a trip to see family in Kent, and we were supposed to be staying at the local pub. We had two rooms booked, or so we thought, including a twin for Ole and Zac. A double booking meant the twin was not available, so they had to share a double, which was fine. Then, a further complication meant that only one room was available, and would they mind camping out? “We have gone from the comfort of two single beds, to sharing a double, and now a tent. How has it come to this?” moaned Ole. Eventually they crashed at a cousin’s flat, and as he went out of his way to make them sausage, bacon and egg butties the next day all was well with the world.

The next trip was a day at York races. It was a bit odd, with vastly reduced crowds and table service in a carvery restaurant, but the booze was plentiful and Sally had her share of winners. Afterwards we retired to Middlethorpe, where we sat on the terrace in the evening sunshine drinking a jug of Pimms! Lockdown? What lockdown?

Going To The Pub?

The PubHead app is starting to gain traction and we are one of the sponsors for the Leek Blues & Americana Festival.

You can find the app in the app store and on Google Play or visit www.pubhead.com.

Here is our promotional video…

A Good Education

Zac is now at the stage where he is considering his options for university or maybe an apprenticeship. Of course that also means that, as he finishes his first year of college, he will need considerably more disposable income. This is particularly true as he has now passed his driving test, but more of that later.

He considered a few things, and Sally suggested one particular seasonal job that he was definitely not impressed with. “I know that beggars can’t be choosers,” he said, “but I want something a bit better than selling ice cream in Pomeroy.”

Towards the end of term he was not quite as diligent as he could have been in attending lessons. He missed a business studies class, and Sally got a “ping” to inform us that he had not turned up. Although he promised to make up for the missed time, there was more bad news for him. Someone that did actually attend the lesson tested positive for covid and therefore the whole class had to self isolate and miss the rest of school. Except for Zac!

As I said, Zac was extremely lucky to get the first driving test on the first morning that they were available after lockdown. He passed, and within a couple of days he was the proud owner of a Ford Zetec. Unfortunately it broke down due to a mechanical fault related to the engine warning light, but that was quickly resolved. However, it also broke down for a different reason. He was somewhere up Chinley Churn one evening, and his car would not start. He had the lights on, the music on, maybe even the air con. The only thing that wasn’t on was the engine. It was clear that they battery had died, and in attempt to guide me to his location I received this…

I insisted that he made his way to the railway bridge, and eventually I got him home. Then Sally had to take him back to his car to remove all valuables, as he realised that the windows were all down and with no power he couldn’t put them up again. Sally was not best pleased!

Animal Magic

Bo has now become (more or less) an outdoor cat, and little presents are almost a daily occurrence.

She has not yet taken to disembowelling them, but it can only be a matter of time.

Meanwhile, we are buying a racehorse. The plan is to rely on the expertise of one of my Buyanom contacts, Luke, to help us to identify a yearling at the Tattersalls October sales. Luke suggested we could get the horse “broken in” locally, which would not only save on costs but would also allow us to visit the horse regularly. Sally listed a few potential horsey people, but it began to sound like something out of Peaky Blinders. Anyway, this Friday we are visiting David O’Meara’s yard just outside York with a view to maybe housing the horse there for its racing career. More updates to follow.

Finally, I woke up this morning to some excitement as Sally said she found a hedgehog on the path. “Where is it?” I asked. “In the bin, it was dead,” she commented. I have no idea how it got there, and maybe more will follow, but given Sally’s track record for bringing dead hedgehogs into the garden it is a worrying development!

Wooden Shite With Candles