Tuesday, 3 March 2009

a weekend away, an easy dessert and nesting

Last month S and I decided to leave our dining room/building site and all the DIY as it was and go away for a long weekend - just the two of us, one last time before the arrival of our little one. So a week after the big snow - I do wonder how Britain ever managed to colonise half the world, when something as normal as snow in the middle of winter brings the entire country to a complete standstill - we set off for a relaxing countryside weekend. We found a lovely B&B in Happisburgh, Norfolk; a beautiful Georgian farmhouse and barn owned by the wonderful David and Rosie, about a half hour's drive from Norwich and only five minutes from the sea. We saw seal colonies at Horsey Beach, where volunteers were very happy to answer all our questions about the seals; had a nice walk at the Hickling Broad Nature Reserve; had a superb pub dinner in Ingham; and visited the grounds of Blickling Hall, which made us feel very Jane Austen!

Of course both S and I were a bit paranoid about me going into labour while away (even though I was still 3 weeks away from my due date) so we packed my hospital bag and baby car seat as well, just in case - we both reasoned 'if we take the bag, we won't need it, but if we leave it at home we will'. We decided to have dinner at the B&B the first night, so this tired pregnant woman wouldn't have to go out foraging for food at night after the long drive there. After emailing back and forth with Rosie about all the good things I'm not allowed to eat, we were served a delicious and hearty home-cooked meal, perfect for the cold February month. Dessert was either a sticky toffee pudding - S's choice - or lemon posset. Which I'd never even heard of before, but I like anything lemony and am always keen to try new things, so that's what I went for. A quick google didn't return much information, other than it seems to be a very old English dish and something about MacBeth. Of course I just had to try and make it myself at home, and I can tell you it is most definitely the easiest dessert in the world. All you need is cream, sugar and lemon juice. I would love to understand the chemistry behind it - when you add the lemon juice the mixture thickens instantly - but for now I'm happy having this recipe on stand-by should I need a delicious dessert in a pinch.

Which brings me to the nesting bit. Maternity leave is a wonderful thing: I'm cooking and baking a lot and even bake my own bread most of the time - that Kitchenaid mixer sure is getting a regular workout and S isn't complaining, as his dinner is on the table by the time he gets home from work. I've been having fun with some knitting and sewing projects (our sitting room now has proper curtains, yay), the nursery is all set up, and once in a while I even have time to meet up with girlfriends for coffee. And of course I've been nesting: scrubbing floors like there is no tomorrow, doing laundry like it's going out of fashion, re-organising the kitchen cabinets and wardrobes, cleaning out the fridge and defrosting the freezer, and then spending a whole day making soup and healthy meals to restock the freezer. Now the house sparkles, my laundry basket is empty and the freezer full, so all that remains now is put my feet up and wait for our little one to arrive. And maybe have another lemon posset...

lemon posset
serves 4

300ml double cream
75g caster sugar
juice of 2 lemons

Pour cream and sugar into saucepan and bring to boil, stirring constantly. Boil for three minutes while stirring continuously. Remove from heat and add lemon juice; mixture will start to thicken instantly. Leave to cool for about five minutes and pour in small glasses. Chill in fridge for a few hours, until set.

I added a layer of lemon curd at the bottom (I used Duchy lemon curd, but of course you can make your own) and decorated with a lemon peel curl. The posset would no doubt be even better with some lavender shortbread, but that will have to wait until another time.