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Monthly Archives: January 2013

Comfort Food #1: Mum’s Homemade Apple ‘Nostalgia’ Pie and Custard

I still remember the first time I watched my Mum bake an apple pie (from scratch) and serve it with custard (not from scratch!) I was about four years old and I was sat on the kitchen work top and I saw her get to work making the pastry dough; rolling it out; covering a pie dish with it and trimming the edges before filling it with sliced fresh apples. Oh and my favourite bit: sealing the edges with a fork so that it had that lined effect that pastry chefs deem ‘old fashioned’ but to me is the sign of a good homemade pie.

I can still taste how good it was and how the sharp, tangy apples contrasted deliciously with the sweet, creamy custard. It’s still one of my faves to this day but then who isn’t partial to a bit of apple pie and custard? Oh and has to be custard. Flavoured creams and ice-cream are all very well but nothing beats lashings of hot custard.

Unfortunately Mum doesn’t really do recipes as she pretty much likes to experiment as she goes along – and most of the time it works! But I did stumble across a recipe which is very similar what Mum used to bake. And If you are more adventurous than Mum, you might like to have a go at making custard from scratch and not just open a tin of Birds custard powder (even if that does take me back to my childhood!)

Delicious apple pie and custard

Delicious apple pie and custard

Apple Pie

Ingredients

For the pastry
For the filling

Preparation method

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
  2. Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl.
  3. Rub in the margarine or butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  4. Add the cold water to the flour mixture. Using a knife, mix the water into the flour, using your hand to firm up the mixture. The pastry should be of an even colour and suitable consistency for rolling.
  5. Divide the pastry into two halves. Take one half and roll it out so that it is big enough to cover an 20cm/8in enamel or aluminium plate. Trim the edges with a knife using the edge of the plate as your guide.
  6. Cover the pastry with the stewed apples and sprinkle with sugar to taste.
  7. Roll out the other half of the pastry. Moisten the edge of the bottom layer of pastry and place the second piece on top.
  8. Press down on the pastry edges, making sure that they are properly sealed. Trim off any excess pastry with a knife in a downward motion, again using the plate as your guide.
  9. Flute the edges with a pinching action using your fingers and thumb.
  10. Prick the surface of the pastry lightly before placing the pie in the oven. Cook for 20-30 minutes.
  11. When the pie is cooked it should move slightly on the plate when gently shaken.
  12. Slide on to a serving plate, dust with caster sugar and serve.

 

 

Custard

Ingredients

Preparation method

  1. Bring the milk, cream and vanilla pod to simmering point slowly over a low heat.
  2. Remove the vanilla pod (wash the vanilla pod, dry and store in jar with caster sugar to make vanilla sugar).
  3. Whisk the yolks, sugar and cornflour together in a bowl until well blended.
  4. Pour the hot milk and cream on to the eggs and sugar, whisking all the time with a balloon whisk.
  5. Return to the pan, (add vanilla extract if using) and over a low heat gently stir with a wooden spatula until thickened.
  6. Pour the custard into a jug and serve at once.
  7. To keep hot, stand the jug in a pan of hot water and cover the top with cling film to prevent skin forming.

gingham-apron-pie-lady2Yummy!

 

 

 

 
 

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Streets Apart is Streets Ahead.

Ever recalled something so fleeting from your childhood that years later you wondered if you had imagined it?

Well for a while I did wonder if I had dreamt up Streets Apart before realising that it did in fact exist! This  BBC sitcom, written by Adrienne Conway,  was first shown in 1988, starring the late James Hazeldine and a virtually unrecogniseable Amanda Redman, as childhood sweethearts, Bernie and Sylvia, who reunite twenty years later only to discover that their lives have taken completely different paths: Bernie is now a black cab driver and widowed father of two, while Sylvia, having worked hard to escape her East End roots, works as a successful literary agent and has a plush central London home. So I set about watching all twelve episodes of Streets Apart again – and I’m so glad I did.

Th show's writer, the lovely Adrienne Conway

The show’s writer, the lovely Adrienne Conway

Only two series of this superb comedy were made and I don’t believe they were ever repeated again on BBC1 ( who says the Beeb are famous for a never ending string of repeats?) despite, from what I understand, the show pulling in between ten to twelve million viewers per week. Streets Apart used to be shown on Wednesday nights (I think!) and although my memories of the show were quite hazy, I’m amazed now by how many OMG!-I remember-that moments I encountered while watching the show again. I even had flashbacks to my mum and aunt commenting on Sylvia’s hair and wardrobe virtually every episode. Oh the eighties!

I thoroughly enjoyed watching Streets Apart again twenty five years later and laughed out loud at some extremely hilarious moments: Bernie picking up a fare who wanted to go to Torquay but pronounced it ‘Turkey’; Sylvia talking seductively over the phone to her bewildered assistant Tiffany in an attempt to make Bernie jealous; Cliff’s sister making a play for Bernie – who only had eyes for Sylvia. The first time i watched the show, I felt quite  sympathetic towards Bernie’s daughter, Mandy, even thought she came across as quite bratty. Watching for the second time as Mandy conspired to keep Bernie away from a-far-from-maternal and seemingly stuck -up Sylvia, I still sympathised with Mandy as I watched her determination to hang on to family life as she knew it.

Spoilt and snooty some of the characters may have appeared but all the characters are likeable in their own way and there is something quite touching in the close bonds that are formed between Bernie and Sylvia and their respective best friends Cliff and Jenny as the latter two provide the necessary support and encouragement that their friends need in order to resume their relationship.

Watching Streets Apart again and feeling that connection to my childhood and the 1980s struck such a chord with me. I could also relate to Sylvia’s desire to make something of herself and of her love of the literary world. There was so much that was familiar to me that I actually wanted to climb inside my TV set and be transported back to the 1980s. If only it were that simple.

It’s such as shame that only two series of Streets Apart were made before the show was cancelled. There was so much that could have been done in in terms of storyline and character development. Viewers were left hanging after watching the penultimate show; deliberately intended, I’m sure, just in case a third series should be commissioned. However, I’m optimistic enough to think that Bernie and Sylvia did make it work despite their differences. It would have been worth commissioning another series if only to hear that bittersweet theme tune sung beautifully by Neil Lockwood.

Despite being moving, funny and very well written by the very talented Conway, with stars Hazeldine, Redman and Desmond MacNamara all achieving a great level of fame, Streets Apart never reached the same iconic comedy status as Only Fools and Horses or the equally short lived but extremely popular Fawlty Towers and I cannot understand why as more than two decades later it’s still very watchable and nowhere near as dated as you may think. I’d like to think that it’s streets ahead of a lot of the drivel that passes for comedy today. They certainly don’t make them like that anymore.

Photo courtesy of Adrienne Conway

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2013 in Comedy Shows

 

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Conrad Bain Gains His Place In Comedy Heaven

I was deeply saddened to hear about the recent passing of eighty nine year old actor, Conrad Bain, who despite having been in showbusiness since 1952, was best known for his role as Phillip Drummond in late 1970s American sit-com, Diff’rent Strokes. Another part of my childhood has sadly gone forever.

 

Bain, was already familiar to United States audiences for his role as Dr. Arthur Harmon in the 1970s series Maude which also starred Bea Arthur. However, it was his role as the Park Avenue millionaire and widowed father in Diff’rent Strokes which catapulted Bain into the arena of international fame. The ground breaking sit-com focused on two brothers from Harlem who were adopted by Bain’s character and the show was significant in handling taboo subjects such as child abuse; racism and illegal drug use. Unusual for a comedy series but the show’s writers ensured that it was dealt with in a sensitive manner.

 

I remember watching Diff’rent Strokes as a child when it was compulsive early evening viewing in our household. Admittedly, it was the late Gary Coleman who stole the show as the cheeeky, wise cracking Arnold but it was only when I was older that I could appreciate Bain’s portrayal of the protective and kindly father. And who knows, maybe Bain’s was an inspiration for many real life fathers on how to be a loving yet firm dad.

Sadly, Bain’s outlived two of his three screen children as both Dana Plato, who played his on-screen daughter, Kimberley, and Coleman both passed away at tragically young ages. So now three quarters of the original core cast have passed onto sit-com heaven but at least Bain lived to a grand age of almost 90. It’s comforting to know that in real life, Conrad Bain was a lot like the the loveable man we watched on screen, even in so far as having a close bond with his three on-screen children. As years went by, Diff’rent Strokes became more famous for the real life troubles of the three Drummond kids but Bain was reluctant to discuss his co-stars’ problems due to his affection for them.

 

Bain’s daughter Jennifer told TMZ, ‘He was an amazing person. He was a  lot like Mr Drummond, but much more  interesting in real life. He was an  amazing father.’ However, Todd Bridges, who played Bain’s on screen son Willis, and is now the only surviving core cast member, hit the nail on the head when he said, “He was a really good man… He really was like Mr. Drummond. Just an all-around nice guy… I’ll truly miss that man.”

Rest in Peace, Mr. Bain. Thanks for the memories.

 

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2013 in Gone Too Soon

 

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