Not in the garden – In the kitchen

Christmas baking preparations a cake for Christmas?

On wet, windy and gloomy afternoons, the best place to be is in the kitchen. It is the warmest part of the house and there is something very comforting about the mingling aromas of dried fruit and spices. I no longer make Christmas puddings or cakes, but I still delight in making jars of candied peel and grinding spices for mincemeat. Afterall Christmas would not be complete without mince pies and even an ordinary fruitcake can be transformed into a non-Christmas cake by soaking the fruit in a mixture of tea and brandy. I can already feel the winter waistline beginning to expand!

I’m sure I’m not the only gardener confined to the house by this prolonged wet and windy weather, particularly as other parts of the country are enjoying the delights of “Hebridean” style winter storms. Wet and windy is one of the characteristics of winter in the Hebrides, and although the strength of the wind has not been unusual, the amount of rain has been prodigious.

The current winter gardening schedule is all about trying to predict a gap in the weather when there is sufficient time between the forecast arrival of the next depression and gaps between the blustery squalls to enable us to venture out. There has to be enough time to walk down to the vegetable garden, check the state of the polytunnel winter veg, dig some root vegetables or leeks and cut some kale. All the while keeping a weather eye on the horizon watching for rapidly approaching storm clouds. If we get the timing wrong we have the choice of sheltering in the polytunnel or getting wet! Hobsons choice?

Leeks and herbs in my crofter’s trug

Inbetween times we have to brave the storm and stagger out to the wood store to fill the log baskets, or raid the preserve store in the shed. I am also very good at picking the short straw when we need a bunch of herbs from the greenhouse. A wrestle with the farm size garden gate against the wind and a dash across the garden in wellies and a full set of waterproofs to get the essential ingredients for the chef’s dish of the day is either heroic, madness or a sign of true devotion.

After years of practice we have learnt how to keep the house well stocked with food and preserves, the log baskets full, the torches charged and the matches by the candles. My personal survial kit for when the electricity fails – cashmere bed socks, a pashmina shawl, a hot waterbottle and in extremis a wee dram! If you wish to brave the weather, mince pies will be on the tea time menu from mid December.

4 thoughts on “Not in the garden – In the kitchen

  1. Aah, mince pies. Yum! It’s a very tempting invitation to enjoy the warmth and aromas of your winter kitchen. And I do love the image of you dashing out in a gale to cut a sprig of parsley! I suppose you must be pretty hardened off to the damp by now, but I do hope you have some calm and sunny dry days this winter!

    • The secret is a good set of waterproofs, wellies and a woolly hat and post dash revival with homemade cake and copious amounts of tea. Not much sign of sunshine for a few days yet, but perhaps next week.

  2. I always enjoy hearing about your kitchen pursuits as well as your garden ones, and what you are filling your larder with. I keep promising myself I will make my own candied peel and as you have posted a tried and tested recipe I will try a little harder to do it this year – although perhaps I could find a recipe for making it in the Aga? I still have mincemeat from last year but have yet to do my (small) Christmas puddings, delayed by the difficulty in finding an individual can/bottle of stout.

    Good to know you have honed your winter preparations, which even those of us on the mainland may have to consider if we have power cuts – although we have recently taken part in some voluntary hour long blackouts, which have made us more aware of what impact they might have. I remember the powercuts of the 70s but as a student I didn’t have the same responsibilities then!

    Hope you are both well

    • Lots of practice with the winter preparations, even so a 5 hour powercut earlier this month took us by surprise! However, ferries and weather permitting we’re having an expedition to Stornoway next week for our Christmas shopping – well stocking the freezer really, and most important buying some real tea (leaves not bags).
      Hope all is well, stay safe and warm.

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