Letter from The Ferns, vegetarian B & B: chatting about mandolins, mincemeat and how old is Newport’s Guildhall?

A short letter this month with so much going on with Christmas on the way and also with us having had a holiday this month. We went to Madeira, which was warm but quite rainy. Our apartment had a wonderful garden with plants that we remember from living in Papua New Guinea. An avocado tree provided us with several salads. If you ever go to  Madeira, check out the Madeira mandolian orchestra – formed in 1913 – there were lots of youngsters in the group and perhaps about 30 in all. It was a brilliant experience!   

Some of the mandolin players

Christmas is on the way and I always make my own Christmas cakes and mincemeat.  My mincemeat recipe is very easy and I have used is for years and years:

I half chop and half  coarsely mince  the following ingredients: 8 oz (230gm) currants, 8 oz sultanas, 8 oz raisins, 8 oz grated cooking apple, 8 oz vegetable suet, 4 oz peel (optional), grated rind and juice of lemon, 8 oz dark brown sugar, 2 oz  almonds slivers – crushed.  Leave for one week  in the bowl with perhaps a tea towel covering it, stiring each day, then pot it up.

So you remember I was going to tell you when our Guildhall was built? Well it was in the 1480s!Here is a picture I took of it last year! Its a lovely venue for events such as weddings!

Newport Guildhall

Finally, I shall be experimenting with hot toddys and ponchas  next month. I really enjoyed poncha in Maderia but I have a recipe for a home grown hot toddy.  So in next month’s letter, I shall be experimenting  with them both and  will see if I can work out which is best!