I’ve been too busy to blog, but that means you poor lovely people have missed a few details of my life. I’m so sorry, darlings, I know it’s endlessly … um, well, you’re kind enough to drop in anyway.
I finished writing the lot descriptions on Saturday, ready for photos on Sunday. Then I headed off for the village show.
A point was made in the comments about nitpicking about details that don’t actually matter in home cooking – yes, absolutely. If you enter a show, you’re supposed to do exactly what it says on the programme, otherwise you may get the dreaded ‘NAS’ (Not As Scheduled) on your card and your lovely tomatoes, cake or beans won’t be judged at all. Well, that’s not my way of doing things, not at a friendly, lovely village show, and that’s one reason – the main reason – they ask me. I get it. I know Denton, the village, and that’s not the way they play it. Some years ago, a friend and I used to judge it and she was a professional home economist and she was a stickler for detail. She actually used to get out a tape measure. They stopped asking us – they knew it wasn’t me, but they didn’t want her to feel left out on her own. She has moved away, though. Marie, who is a professional school cook and I got a jug of water and two cups, a large and a small knife, a couple of saucers, two plates and some paper towels and got to work.
First, we went for the flavoured bread. There was a brown herb bread, a white ditto, a cheesy bread that had rather sunk in the middle and a brown soda bread with beer. We were intrigued by that last, though slightly doubtful that it counted in the same category as yeast bread – but we didn’t really like it, I’m afraid. The white herb bread was delicious, a clear winner – and the hand-kneaded one, the other two were made in a breadmaker (which was allowed). Then we went on to rock buns. Well, they were all good, it has to be said. I like rock buns, you can’t go far wrong – but again, there was an outstanding one and we chose three winners. Shortbread was slightly trickier because some looked better than others but didn’t necessarily taste better, and the one with the best flavour of all was a bit more of a biscuit than a shortbread really – but it had the edge in the end. Then marble cake – the first one we tasted set the standard, especially as it had been baked that morning. Sadly, another tasty one was slightly undercooked in the middle. I confess that we don’t write notes about everything, it takes just so long, but we did mention that. Another contender was a bit uncooked too, which was a pity.
I think we went on to jam tarts next and none of them was anything less than good, though one batch of pastry was about as good as my shortcrust is – ie tough. The gentlemens’ class was apple cake, with a given recipe. Again, can’t go far wrong and they were all good. Two had been baked that morning, which did give an edge. We read the recipe and studied the cakes carefully – you put in half the cake mixture, added the apple, then the rest of the cake – but only one had a real layer of apple in the middle. There were also ground almonds in the mix and flaked almonds on top, it was interesting that some tasted far more of nut than others.
Only three entries in the lemonade class this year and two in the eggs – we don’t eat those, it’s a visual thing. We’d given two third places in the apple cake and the eggs were just beautiful and clearly new-laid (when broken, you can tell because there’s a plump circle of albumen that the yolk sits on) so I suggested two first prizes. De, who puts the certificates out, patiently wrote out an extra card.
The killer is the part we leave until last: the preserves. Jams, then marmalades, then chutneys. We always feel a bit queasy after those. Several of the chutneys were too freshly made to have reached their best, the spices and vinegar were a bit harsh. Two or three hadn’t been cooked long enough, there was liquid. We still tasted them all, though. The best of all was gorgeous, I must find out who made it and beg the recipe.
Finally, there was the carrot taste class. They started that, with tomatoes, last year. Just one carrot in the class and appearance didn’t matter, it was all about the taste. Marie and I had to agree to differ there, she liked one best and I liked another and that was that. So we gave two firsts. Then we debated the rest and decided there had to be two seconds. So the final two both came third – because that was far better than disappointing someone.
Afterwards, we were given lunch. Hah. I took some salad, to be sociable, but it was impossible to eat an actual meal.
PS Cheese straws! I forgot to mention them.