Rock Buns

I decided to make some traditional rock buns this afternoon – I used to make them often when I was younger, but haven’t made any for years. Rock buns are a favourite family tea-time treat that have sadly gone out of fashion with today’s more sophisticated tastes. Proper childhood comfort food to cheer me up – a real blast from my baking past.

They’re so easy to make, and thankfully their rough-and-ready appearance (rock-like, hence the name) means neatness is never a requirement. I love the crumbly, crusty exterior and the spicy, fruity interior that together creates such a satisfyingly perfect accompaniment to a lovely cup of tea. If you’ve never had rock buns, they’re not quite as sweet and rich as cake, not quite as light and airy as bread, and in spite of their strange name are not quite as solidly slice-able in texture as a scone, either.

Happily it seems I’ve not lost my touch and these have turned out a treat – I’ve already had one (OK maybe two, just to make sure!) with my afternoon cuppa, and hopefully they’ll be a nice surprise for my husband when he gets home from work later tonight – yum! πŸ™‚

April A-Z: T is for Taste

When I first tested positive for Covid three and a half months ago, I still had my sense of taste. It had definitely altered a bit as the initial infection took hold, because I found for the first few days everything tasted metallic and yuk, but then slowly my sense of taste disappeared entirely, taking my sense of smell with it. It’s so weird eating and drinking stuff and not being able to smell it or taste it at all. Just when you most want a nice cup of tea to make yourself feel better, or to comfort yourself with some old familiar flavours, it’s so disheartening not to be able to taste anything.

I hadn’t ever realised before just how much my enjoyment of cooking depends on my sense of smell and taste – I found I was still able to make my usual food favourites by rote, seasoning things from years of habit, but frustratingly when it came to eating all I could discern were textures rather than tastes. I learned how strange some food feels in the mouth without your taste-buds zinging things up. Pancakes feel like rubber, chicken soup feels slimy, meat just feels chewy and heavy. If I closed my eyes, I’d probably be unable to name exactly what was in my mouth. If I knew what I was eating, I’d remember the expected taste and try to conjure it up.

As the weeks passed my sense of smell slowly returned first, along with a slight restoration in taste in that I could once more differentiate salty or sweet, spicy or sour, but little else. Suddenly food would smell good again, but still taste disappointingly bland and blah. Then things started to taste really weird for a while as I began to recognise a partial taste but nothing else – for example delicately smoked fish tasted so strongly of smoke I couldn’t even eat it. The sweetest green veg tasted really bitter, even good quality milk chocolate tasted mainly of cloying fatty solids, and wholemeal bread somehow tasted earthy – the balance of intensity was all wrong.

But more recently, thankfully there has been a marked improvement in the subtleties of taste I can decipher. We were eating crunchy home-made garlic bread the other day and I got really excited because I could actually properly taste the luscious herby garlic butter in my mouth – sadly it only lasted for a moment, for one meal, but at least it was there, and it’s a start! To be honest I really miss those delightful nuances of flavour dancing so delicately on my tongue, and I’m so tired of tasting all or nothing with my blundering blunt-instrument taste-buds. But I have hope that things will continue to improve day by day – watch this space! πŸ™‚

For this year’s April Blogging from A-Z Challenge I’m aiming for an alphabetical exploration of my personal thoughts and feelings on the continuing Covid 19 pandemic one year on, using a mix of poetry, pics and ponderings…

Boiled Eggs and Toasted Soldiers

OMG I love the taste of real butter – I remember so well the creamy yellow full-fat butter made by my grandmother on their arable farm. They always had a cow, though, kept for the milk. First the cow would be milked by hand, the warm, frothy milk splashing straight from the cow into the milk pail. Then the milk pail would be left to settle in the ‘milk-house’ which was a long, cool, stone-built out-building by the back door to the farmhouse. In due course the cream would be skimmed off the top of the milk and it was this cream that would be made into butter.

The old labour-intensive wooden butter churn still sat in the milk-house, next to the cool marble-topped work surface, but by the time I was old enough to remember the process the butter was being made in the kitchen using a standard electric mixer. From runny liquid whipped up to a thick cream to making little yellow globules of fat solids in white opaque liquid with minimal effort – perfect! Once the butter was fully separated from the buttermilk in the mixing bowl it was taken out and washed in cold water and salted to taste, before being carefully formed into a small rectangular block using ridged wooden butter pats.

In my memory the residual buttermilk was always given to the chickens to help keep them healthy… Oh, and thinking of the chickens reminds me of the fun of egg-collecting, too. I remember us grand-children being sent into the hen-house to collect the eggs, nestling so gently in the straw all brown and fragile. Carrying them in to the kitchen so carefully, then having them soft-boiled and sat in individual egg-cups with a steaming little cap sliced off the top, just enough to be able to dip in lavishly buttered toasted soldiers – long thin fingers of toasted bread, just perfect for dipping into the egg…

Such wonderful childhood memories… Actually I couldn’t tell you the last time I had a soft-boiled egg eaten with butter-laden toasted soldiers, but I’m almost tempted to give it a go tonight! πŸ™‚

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Butter

Lockdown Lentil Soup

Yeah I know, not exactly exciting to look at but hello, we’re in lockdown – nowhere much to go and nothing much to see! So here is a pictorial record of the making of yesterday’s lentil soup from the initial smoked ham hock boiling to make stock, chopped vegetables waiting to join the red lentils and seasoning already added to the stock, the basic soup before and after cooking, and a lovely hot bowlful ready to eat on a cold winter’s day.

And the best thing about it was – I really could taste it! After a month of Covid blandness it was such a relief to actually taste something properly again, and hopefully fingers crossed this is the start of my tastebuds functioning like real tastebuds once more. I’ve got used to the disappointment of being able to discern little more than salty or sweet or spicy, relying on texture rather than taste to bring any enjoyment to my eating.

I do appreciate that there seems to be no rhyme nor reason with Covid recovery, no standard straight-line progression from sick to well. It seems to be more of a two steps forward, one step back dance of discovery around some symptoms coming and going, ebbing and flowing, keeping you on your toes – it’s exhausting and perplexing and just so damned frustrating to not know from one day to the next how you’re going to be feeling.

But in the meantime, at least I enjoyed my soup! πŸ™‚

Kindness and Cake

More often than not it’s the little things in life that make me smile the most, especially in our Covid-restricted world of lockdown. So this morning I’ve been looking through a beautifully illustrated little book titled ‘The Art of Kindness: Caring for Ourselves, Each Other & Our Earth’ by Meredith Gaston and enjoying a cup of tea and a home-baked lemon cake.

I only made half a dozen small cakes rather then a huge batch (and now only four are left) but even so I really enjoyed the familiar process of measuring out the ingredients and mixing up the cake batter – and the lemon glace icing ended up a little on the runny side but that doesn’t matter, after all cake is cake and it all goes down the same way πŸ™‚

Right now it feels like the world needs a lot more kindness and consideration in it, a lot more love and a lot less hate – and of course a little culinary indulgence now and again to lift our spirits! ❀

Weekly Smile