thyme and taleggio scones


Neither Tom or I are fond of food shopping, yet for some unknown reason we have never ordered our supplies online using one of the many delivery services now available. I finally tried this the other day, and of course made the mistake of failing to adjust the default units under which some items are measured. This rookie error resulted in the delivery of a kilo of taleggio cheese. I required just 100g to make a tart, and was now in possession of 10 times more than the recipe required. . . . Tom had a good laugh, and Bruce kindly offered to help out by devouring the excess, but, I reminded him (as I often have to) that dogs don’t eat cheese.

Unfortunately, taleggio is a substance with limited uses, and not really the sort of cheese you can just chow down on wholesale — it is quite strong and salty and very squashy. What to do?


Well, I just made taleggio scones for lunch, and they turned out so well that I thought I’d share the recipe!



There are a few key things to remember when making these:

1) stick the taleggio in the freezer for half an hour so that it hardens up
2) cut the taleggio into small pieces
3) do not work the scone dough in any way. Just bring it together and plonk it down on your floured surface.

Thyme and Taleggio Scones

(Makes 6 or 7 large scones)
6oz / 170g self raising flour
2oz / 56 g butter
3.5 oz / 100g taleggio
ground black pepper
sprig of thyme
5floz / 150 ml buttermilk

Put taleggio in freezer for 30 mins
Preheat oven to 180c / 350f / gas mark 4.

Rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Add the thyme leaves and the ground black pepper.
Take the taleggio out of the freezer and cut into small cubes. Using your hand, mix it lightly into the breadcrumb mixture.
Add the buttermilk, and, using a butter knife, stir the mixture gently until it starts to come together.
Bring the mixture together carefully with your hands into a rough dough. DO NOT KNEAD, OR OTHERWISE WORK THE DOUGH!
Place dough on floured surface and lightly press to 1.5 in thick.
Cut out scones with pastry cutter.
Place on floured baking tray and bake at centre of oven for 15 mins, or until golden.
Eat warm.


Well, that’s 100g of taleggio down, only 900g to go . . . .

a few days in Cartmel


A pretty Cumbrian village . . .


. . . festive windows . . .


. . . and doors.


Ben, the friendly cat . . .


A fine local food market . . .


And a wonderful birthday meal.

In case you are wondering, the food at L’Enclume was just as amazing as you might imagine. We didn’t look at the menu, and really enjoyed the delicious surprises that all (ahem) seventeen courses of the tasting menu afforded. This was incredible food, impeccably presented, but I never felt that its theatre was pointless. In fact, in general L’Enclume struck us as being refreshingly grounded — from its use of local ingredients and suppliers, to the warmth and complete lack of stuffiness of its staff. As our holidays and meals are usually done on the cheap, camper-van style, the whole experience was a real treat for us and we enjoyed ourselves immensely.


Happy 40th birthday, Tom!


Like me, my friends in Ireland like their TEA. The two most popular Irish brands are Lyons and Barry’s – and loyalties are hotly divided over the two brands. Certainly, everyone in Ireland I’ve spoken to about tea knows which they prefer. I am a person of strong opinion where tea is concerned, so Eimear recently sent me both brands so that I could make up my mind . . .

So, on the left, we have a pyramid-shaped Lyons teabag, and on the right, a more traditional rectangular Barry’s teabag . . .

The packaging of both brands is actually weirdly similar . . .

Lyons . . .

Barry’s . . .

Lyons . . .

Barry’s . . .

I took a good slurp of both and decided that the winner is most definitely . . .


I found the taste of the Lyons strangely familiar – the shape of the tea-bag, and the fact that it is distributed by UniLever leads me to wonder whether it is, in fact, essentially the same tea as PG Tips?

I do not know whether Barry’s has a UK brand equivalent – it did not taste familiar, and I have tasted many, many teas. To me it seemed a good afternoon tea – “brisk”, as it says on the packaging – and I’m definitely looking forward to drinking my way through the rest of the box. Mmmmm. . . tea . . .

You will note that was nothing objective at all about this experiment: a blind tasting is pretty much impossible to conduct solo; there was no control; I had my suspicions that the pyramid-shaped bag contained PG Tips before I tasted it; and perhaps, too, I am drawn to Barry’s because I find the name vaguely amusing (Barry (as in Barry-The-Tramp) is the shorthand in this house for a stubbly face that needs a shave). Anyway, I hope I’ve not offended any Irish readers in the Lyons camp!

And while we are on the subject of experiments, I want to say a big CONGRATULATIONS to Tom, aka Barry, whose important new work on B-cells and MS is currently climbing up the immunology charts as the “most read” paper in the Journal of Experimental Medicine. WHOOT!


There is no getting away from the fact that I’ve had a rough few days. Please try not to have a stroke, people: the long term health implications of it are really bloody annoying. Sometimes the process of recovery itself can add further problems to the myriad medical issues that follow a brain injury, and this has certainly been the case for me. This particular issue concerns the instability of my pelvis, and my general (in)ability to get about, and as well as being in quite a bit of pain this week I’ve been feeling rather angry and frustrated. Will this shit never leave me alone? Unfortunately, it probably won’t. The only thing for me to do is to properly face up to the fact that a stroke is, in effect, a chronic condition with which I am now living: however determined I am, my mobility is now going to be seriously compromised for the rest of my life, and I have to deal with that. Easier said than done, sometimes. I often find myself thinking of Patricia Neal and her hip replacements.

I’m not keen on myself when I’m maudlin, and I’m quite sure no one else is either, so I find myself with not too much to say today. Here are a couple of cheering things.

I love this so much I can’t stop knitting it. The yarn is the stuff I showed you recently and it is just. so. bloody. tasty. I am making some things from it which will be out in pattern form next month, so I will be able to show you the right side reasonably soon.

Tom baked hazelnut shortbread. When baking anything containing nutz, it is, of course, obligatory to sing several verses of the old Louis Jordan song, Nuts to You. At least it is round here:

“We’ve got walnuts, chestnuts – all the best nuts -
Every kind but donuts
Brazil nuts, peanuts, we will see nuts
Till we really go nuts.”

Where was I? Oh yes, Tom’s hazelnut shortbread. It is very good.

You will find the recipe on p. 948 of Nigel Slater’s Tender, vol 2, or below in an abbreviated variation, rendered without Nigel’s linguistic excesses (“large, unruly balls” being a notable feature of his original).

Butter 170g
golden caster sugar 100g
skinned hazelnuts 60g
ground almonds 40g
plain flour 200g
icing sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 160c.

Cream butter and sugar together till fluffy.
Toast hazelnuts in a dry frying pan until golden, then pound with mixer or pestle & mortar until coarse.
Add the nuts & flour to the butter & sugar and stir until the mixture comes together.
Take a teaspoon, and divide mixture into twelve blobs.
Place on non-stick baking sheet and bake for about 25 mins, or until the biscuits have risen and begun to colour.
Remove from oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes, before lifting from the baking sheet and dusting with icing sugar.

Enjoy while still slightly warm, with a nice cup of tea.


I’ve been out for a nice long ramble with Bruce. It was raining.

As long as I have a) a good waterproof and b) non-leaky boots, I rather like walking in the rain. There is nobody around. The world looks different. Everything smells good.

Bruce got to splash about in all sorts of wet stuff with complete impunity.

Almost as good as a long walk in the rain is coming in and drying off from a long walk in the rain . . . with a giant cup of tea . . .

. . .and a scone (bizarrely, my biscuit disaster seems to have kindled a baking phase).

Have a nice weekend, everyone!

thought for the day

I was after a needlecase, and found a nice old one on ebay. I always like it when these things contain their original threads and notions. But what really drew me to this particular case was its prim little maxim:

These lines are conventional, and may appear elsewhere, but I know them from William King’s poem, The Art of Cookery (1708), notable for its enthusiastic celebration of eighteenth-century British food, “squab pie” and “white pot” and “Leicester beans and bacon, food of kings!”

“Happy the Man that has each Fortune tried,
To whom she much has giv’n, and much deny’d:
With abstinence all delicates he sees,
And can regale himself with Toast and Cheese:
Your Betters will despise you if they see
Things that are far surpassing your degree;
Therefore beyond your substance never treat,
‘Tis plenty in small fortune to be neat.”

Well, I’m off to make a PIE.

domestic incidents

Tom was out cycling. However many mysterious gels and powders he consumes, he is always ravenous when he gets back. So I decided to “surprise” him with some tasty home baking.

I don’t bake very often.

Tom poetically described them as “little piles of cat sick”.

At least my peppers are doing well.


Surely one of the most satisfying things about any kind of journal keeping is the Gilbert White-like sense it can convey of seasonal continuity or change. At dusk yesterday, Jesus’s plum tree burst into bloom. I note that last year, after a particularly long and evil Winter, it had just started to flower on April 4th; in 2009, blossom had started to appear on March 23rd. I don’t know what the plum tree was doing in 2008 because I didn’t mention it. However, I do recall hailstones the size of golf balls at Durness – it certainly wasn’t plum blossom weather.

nor were there butterflies . . .

. . .or beetles on the budding gorse.

Anyway, the Spring weather is glorious, and we have been out enjoying it at The Braids

hang on . . . are those your feet on a rough path, in normal shoes?

you fookin bet they are!

and what’s Tom doing off work on a Thursday?

Well, today he is on strike, and a walk was just what was needed after a morning on the picket line. If I had any labour to withdraw, I would certainly be withdrawing it.

Slow-cooked lamb for supper. The windows open. A good day.

gurning, kippers, and colour

For the record, I have had two really ‘bad’ days this week, during which I’ve been unable to do much because of fatigue. (Will it ever just fook off?) At times when brain and body refuse to do anything strenous, knitting and the BBC can often save me from getting too crotchety. But it is hard not to feel crotchety when the Archers has turned into the everyday story of royal folk, with shameless plugs for HRH’s Tory Originals, and the peasants gleefully doffing their caps at the titled visitor. Also, how could the BBC allow this woeful sixth-form gubbins into its so-called ‘arts’ programming? Yentob, you numpty, for shame. And then there is this otherwise laudable project, spoilt by Neil Oliver’s irritating habit of addressing the viewer over his shoulder with-furrowed-brow-and-manly-mane, spouting inane speculations on the psyche of the Mesolithic. Tom refuses to watch anything with Oliver in it, but I do find him good for the occasional laugh. (I recommend fast-forwarding the iplayer to about 45 minutes in, and observing the absurd slo-mo gurn.)

When not feeling bloody rotten, I have been enjoying:

1) . . re-reading Our Mutual Friend. I had forgotten how good it is.

2) . . the output of different smokehouses. Really, is there any breakfast better than this? I also find the aesthetics of kipperskin quite compelling. Call me pecu, I do not care . .

. . though I am concerned that my neighbours may not share my obsession.

3) . . . being out and about with Bruce

The days are rather grey, and the weekend forecast is for snow, but the birds are going ape in the hedges, and there are flashes of early Spring everywhere you look.

(Just get on with it and take the picture)

4) . . . indoor colour

. . . who isn’t a sucker for yellow and purple at this time of year? On the subject of which . .

5) . . . purple knitting.

Now, this is curious, since I am not in the least a purple person (there is not a single purple item in my wardrobe, for example). This yarn has been sitting in my stash for an aeon – I bought it several years ago in a place with very poor lighting, thinking it was indigo blue. But it is most definitely purple – one of the purplest purples I have seen, in fact – and the more one knits it, the purpler it becomes. I rather like it. What am I knitting? Well, I am reformatting and updating a few of my patterns with a view to their forthcoming wholesale availability in Canada and the US, and I thought I’d make a fresh sample of one of my sweaters that only takes a few days to knit up. I am sure you can guess what it is. There may be a purple appearance soon.

Have a lovely weekend, however you are spending it!

Caller Herrin’

When I began thinking about this design, I was reading about the intertwined histories of fishing and knitting, and Tom and I were coincidentally (and very happily) going through a kipper-eating phase (Fortune’s are my favourite). I wanted to make a hat that was an homage to the herring – the humble-yet-once-highly-lucrative fish whose annual Southward migration occupied communities up and down Britain’s North-Sea coast.

Scaly shapes lend themselves quite nicely to charted design, but I wanted the hat to suggest the shifting colours of shoals of herring too. I first tried working with two Alice Starmore colours (Kittiwake and Shearwater) , and shifting the foreground and background about. My prototype chart looked a bit like this:

But after a few repeats, I realised it wasn’t quite what I was after, so I adjusted things, and added in another four shades from my Starmore stash. Success! My scales now moved through graded transitions that were reminiscent both of shoals of herring and the cool light and water of Scotland’s East Coast. Ye gods, how I love Hebridean 2ply. For subtlety and depth it is quite peerless, and the yarn’s colour references in the Scottish landscape can sometimes seem spookily precise. Please to examine in the following photograph how well the shades of the knitted fabric echo those of the water and the wintry horizon. Starmore is a genius.

The colours are Selkie, Shearwater, Summer Tide, Pebble Beach, Kittiwake and Solan Goose. For many reasons, I find Pebble Beach one of the most interesting Starmore shades (you can read about its colour development here).

I have long been fascinated by how mercurial Pebble Beach can be, and when knitting with it this time I found its colour-behaviour as bamboozling as ever. To demonstrate: if you enlarge the pic of my peerie-sampler hat on the right, you will notice a pale turquoise – almost minty – colour popping out of the dull browns and pinks. That pale turquoise shade is Pebble Beach. But in my new tam, set against cool teals and creams and blues, Pebble Beach becomes a pinkish-brown itself:

It seems almost stridently resistant to being absorbed by the other shades. Evidently, I am obsessed with Pebble Beach, but while knitting this tam I developed a deep love for every one of the colours I used. Solan Goose is top-of-the-milk creamy; Summer Tide is deliciously light and fresh; and Selkie such a rich, involved, brownish-purplish blue. Um, did I mention that I heart Hebridean 2ply?

If you hadn’t guessed already, these photographs are taken at Newhaven Harbour, which is a short walk from where I live. The old fish-market now houses a couple of restaurants, but it used to be home to a nice wee museum, staffed by local retirees. When I first visited this museum, I got chatting to a formidably knowledgeable elderly gent, who told me that I would be a foreigner until I had lived in Newhaven for seven years. It is actually seven years ago this weekend that Tom and I moved here. Do you think we can count ourselves as locals yet?

This design obviously has local resonances too. Caller means fresh, and “Caller Herrin'” was one of the traditional street cries of the fishwives who carried their laden creels up from the Newhaven harbourside to sell their wares around Edinburgh. This street cry, in turn, gave its name to a song, written in the 1820s by Jacobite poet, Carolina Oliphant, to a tune by master Scots fiddler, Nathaniel Gow. In Gow’s music you can hear the pealing church bells of Edinburgh as well as the cries of the fishwives, while Oliphant’s words play on the notion that the true cost of fish could only be measured in the lost lives of the men who caught them. This sentimental sales pitch might be used by canny fishwives to boost their prices.

Wha’ll buy my caller herrin’?
They’re no brought here without brave darin’
Buy my caller herrin’
Ye little ken their worth.
Wha’ll buy my caller herrin’?
O ye may ca’ them vulgar farin’;
Wives and mithers, maist despairin’,
Ca’ them lives o’ men.

The familiar refrain of “it’s no fish you’re buying, it’s men’s lives” became the stock-in-trade of countless representations of Scottish fishwives over the century following Oliphant’s song (see, for example, this by Millais). I’ve included the text of the rest of Oliphant’s song (for those who are interested) together with my pattern. My favourite verse is probably this one:

An’ when the creel o’ herrin passes,
Ladies clad in silks and laces,
Gather in their braw pelisses,
Toss their heads and screw their faces.

But I am happy to say, that my Caller Herrin does not have the same olfactory effect on those who pass by. . .

. . though you might be forgiven for thinking that I was sniffin’ something fishy from this interesting shot that Tom managed to take of my nostrils.

Anyway, if you fancy making your own fish heid, you can buy my Caller Herrin’ here or here.


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