A Chatsworth Christmas

In a corner of Derbyshire

In a beautiful corner of Derbyshire, beyond Matlock, stands the magnificent Chatsworth House and every Christmas it holds a series of special events on an appropriate wintry theme. The grand house is decorated in fantasy and visitors can walk through the different rooms each with a sub-theme. The magic happens every year, but the year that sticks particularly in my mind was the one focused on the Victorian author Charles Dickens, and of course A Christmas Carol loomed large. The scenes in each room were breath-taking and you stand in wonder looking at the amazing detail the designers created.

Of course there was a room dedicated to Scrooge’s bedroom, the haunted skeletal figure of the old man sitting up in his four-poster bed staring in wide-eyed horror at the apparition before him. And of course the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future appeared in all their glory.

Another room, one of the great banqueting halls was home to Great Expectations, a huge table running the length of the hall, laden with cobweb smothered tableware, candelabras and food. As we drank in the spectacle we startled at the sight of Miss Haversham, in her ancient tattered wedding dress, moving ghost-like across towards us, muttering and moaning.

The gardens were frosty that December day and the silvery trees in the park and lining the drive added to the ghostly atmosphere.

Needless to say the gift shop provided many a gift and stocking filler, nicely in time for Christmas.

And of course, the cleverly animated snowy scene of Dickensian London prompted me to hurry home to bake my historical recipe of Victorian Boozy Plum Pudding and heat mulled wine from my Christmas Kitchen chapter of The Old Rectory: Escape to a Country Kitchen at http://myBook.to/TheOldRectory

An author’s life (part 2) : country baking through the seasons – oh, and writing of course!

It’s Winter!

OK, so it’s not actually deep in snow here, but you get the drift – um, pun unintended! Coming up to Christmas, and chilly days of British rain and wind, we really need some comfort treats. There’s something about ginger in the autumn and winter that is lovely and cosy, for example personally I love rhubarb and ginger gin – but that’s another story!

If you’ve been following my seasonal series on using my lunch break from my laptop to bake something delicious and comforting, you’ll know that my winter bake is often my Chewy Ginger Flapjacks, so easy to make (one bowl) and so moreish …

Chewy Ginger Flapjacks

makes about 12-16 depending on the size you want

Chewy, gooey, filling, scrumptious. What more can I say? One of my easiest and favourite teatime/coffee break treats.

You’ll need:

100 g. (4 oz.) butter

100 g. (4 oz.) caster sugar

100 g. (4 oz.) self raising flour

112 g. (4.5 oz.) oats

0.5 tsp. bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp. ground ginger

Pinch salt

2 tbsp. golden syrup, gently warmed

Preheat the oven to 180ºC, 350ºF/gas mark 4. Grease a deepish oblong baking tray – a brownie tin is ideal. Mix the butter, sugar, and all the other dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix in the gently warmed syrup. Then spread in the baking tin and bake for about 20–30 minutes, until golden brown. Be careful the edges don’t burn. Cool a little and cut into squares or slices. Cool on a cooling rack and enjoy!

If you leave these unattended on the cooling rack in the kitchen, there may not be any left for you … so hide them. They’re also good for you, with lovely healthy oats.

What’s your favourite winter baking treat?

For more of my family recipes (and some from historical archives too), go to: The Old Rectory: Escape to a Country Kitchen at http://myBook.to/TheOldRectory

Yesterday Uncovered: back to the 1960s with Chill With a Book

My lovely friend Pauline Barclay, a great supporter of authors, is running a series of features each month revisiting different historical decades through literature. It’s on her blog Chill with a Book and the series is called Yesterday Uncovered. I was thrilled when she invited me to take part. Today I’m slipping back to the 1960s! Well, actually I’m sitting by Pauline’s pool in the sunshine sipping bubbly and chatting, and being interviewed by Pauline for her blog. Pauline features the interview in the Yesterday Uncovered 1960s blogspot about the first of my Drumbeats trilogy and the background to its 1960s setting in Ghana, a time of danger, civil war, and tragedy that swept across West Africa (oh, and it’s about finding love as well!).

So, why did I choose the 1960s and why Ghana? What research did I need to do about the time and place? What was life like then? What were the great bands and songs of the 60s?

And how does the novel Drumbeats develop through the trilogy? Along with its successors, Walking in the Rain and Finding Jess, the trilogy is a saga of love, betrayal and second chances, spanning 30 years.

I’m having a busy time t the moment promoting the trilogy: tomorrow I’m being interviewed on Rachel Brimble’s blog and next Tuesday I’m on Jo Lambert’s Tuesday Talk – I’ll post the links for both next week. November 12-15 I’m on tour with Kelly Lacey and Love Books Group.

The trilogy would make a great Christmas gift in either paperbacks or ebooks! All the books are individually on Amazon in ebook and paperback but my publisher is bringing out the whole saga in an ebook omnibus edition in early December (see below)  and check it out at

http://myBook.to/Drumbeatstrilogy

Many thanks to Pauline for inviting me to be a part of her fascinating series. It was great to chat with the lovely and generous Pauline again! Check out the blog by clicking below …
 https://paulinembarclay.blogspot.com/…/yesterday-uncovered-… …

Christmas at Chatsworth

 

As usual Chatsworth was a delight at Christmas time and this year the theme was Charles Dickens – so wonderful for me, as a writer. The picture above isn’t our Christmas dinner at the Big House … look closely and you’ll see the cobwebs over a wedding feast. Yes, it’s Great Expectations, and Miss Haversham was there to greet us!

She was joined in other parts of the house by Ebenezer Scrooge, startled in his bed by the ghost of Christmas Past …

… and we loved Fagin, and the London Christmas of Oliver Twist….

…  the magical creations of houses sculpted from old book pages, the Christmas tree made from books …

It was all simply charming. But the day was truly icy as we wandered round the gardens, remembering the many days we’ve spent walking there in summer, along the river and across the parkland, but what a lovely walk it was, despite noses and mouths freezing. It was a fantastic start to the Christmas period and we look forward to next year’s theme.