An unbirthday birthday for Lewis Carroll

Today, the 27th January, is the 180th birthday of the great mathematician and writer Charles Dodgson aka Lewis Carroll.

As a tutor at Christ College Oxford, Carroll befriended the daughters of the Dean, Henry Liddell, and made up stories to entertain them. These grew into the now famous and cult book, Alice in Wonderland. 

For those who don't already know: The story is of a little girl who falls asleep by the riverbank and disappears into a  fantastical world. She falls down a rabbit hole to a place peppered with extraordinary animals: the White Rabbit, the Dodo, the Mock Turtle, the Dormouse, the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter, the March Hare and the Queen of Hearts.  Brimming with strange creatures, nonsense games without rules, rhymes and songs, logic and illogic, death, madness, drugs and dreams.  

Why not celebrate with a walk along the Thames at Godstow, where Carroll and Alice used to row up stream to picnic on the riverbank and tell stories.  Take a rug and make up silly rhymes, run Caucus races, look for rabbit holes, collect swan feathers, feed the ducks and geese, spot herons and the occasional kingfisher and watch boats floating serenely up and down the river. 

For details of our Alice in Wonderland walk that takes you to all the key Alice places, a couple of excellent pubs, the nice tea shops, the shop where Alice used to buy her barley sugars and where to hire a boat, turn to Chapter 18 of Adventure Walks for Families, In and Around London, by Becky Jones and Clare Lewis. To buy a copy, click here.

Marmalade Cake

If, like me you got carried away and made too much marmalade or still have lots left from last year why not make a marmalade cake.

A friend of mine picked up a flyer from Waterstones Bookshop for me with a recipe from  The Great British Bake Off: How to Bake. It is very easy, literally a sponge cake with three generous dollops of marmalade in it.

The recipe recommended a topping of warmed marmalade spread over the cake, covered with an icing sugar and water frosting. But as my children preferred the sound of the orange flower water version from a Nigel Slater sticky marmalade recipe, I did that one instead. 

The cake was absolutely delicious - even the children who HATE marmalade were holding plates out for a second slice. Next time I would like to try  the Nigel Slater cake to go with the frosting......

List of ingredients: 175g butter, caster sugar, and self-raising flour, 3 large free range eggs, baking powder, 3 tablespoons of Seville orange marmalade, 2 tablespoons of milk. Bake at 180C/350F/gas 4) for 50 minutes until golden brown and firm to the touch.

Bitter sweet January

For a fleeting few weeks in January, Seville oranges flood the market stalls, just the thing for making marmalade.  Blink and you miss them.  There is nothing like home-made jams, and marmalade more than any of the others.  Shop bought are too sweet and not the same thing at all.  What's more, it's actually very easy to make.  The trick is not to make too much at any one time. All you need are Seville oranges (1.5kg), a lemon or two, water (3 litres) and sugar 3kg).  You will also need a muslin or a jelly bag to put the pips and pith in to release the pectin, the thing that makes marmalade set.  

Wash the fruit, cut them in half, squeeze out the juice and remove the pips.

Cut the peel in shreds and put it in a pan with the pips tied up in a muslin bag.

Add the water, lemon juice, and pulp.

Simmer for an hour and a half, remove the muslin bag (squash it against the pan with a spoon to release the pectin first), stir in all the sugar until it dissolves completely.  Rapidly boil until setting point is reached.  To test this, drop a splodge of marmalade onto a cold saucer (pop one in the freezer for a few minutes before hand.  Push it with your finger and if it wrinkles, it is set.  Pour into sterilised jars and seal immediately.  Cover with a wax disc.  We don't bother with them as we eat our marmalade so quickly!

Hot off the Press...

...and just through the letterbox - long awaited advance copies of our Bumper Book of London.  It's real and it's here.  Hooray.

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