Thursday, 15 February 2018


Good Morning to you,

If I were to ask you, to think of one daily or weekly domestic task, which your grandmother did, but which is not relevant today.

What would your answer be?

For instance, I asked George this same question and he said, 'Collecting coal from the coal house'. Something his grandfather did on a daily basis during the winter time, but a job George hasn't done since we first married.... yes, we did have a coal house and yes, that is how long it has been since we had an open fire. 

George then mentioned that with the introduction of casual shoes, the polishing of shoes had changed. That is to say, the products we use are different nowadays.... which led me to thinking about my Gramps. 

I remember every time we visited Gramps and Ivy, one of Gramp's evening rituals, would be to collect everyone's shoes, even my mother and father's. The shoes would be carried into the back parlour, where newspaper would be laid out on the floor. His brushes and shoe polish would be lined up ready and waiting to perform their work.  One brush would be used to put the polish onto the shoes and the second brush would be used to remove the polish from the shoes.  The final job would be to use his duster to buff up the shine on the shoes.  Now I am not saying that my father did not shine our shoes, but I don't remember shiny shoes like the ones Gramps returned to us each morning. I remember mine were red and how they shined when Gramps had worked his magic.

So back to the question. My answer would be, darning holes in socks.

I cannot remember the last time I darned a hole in a sock. In actual fact, it was so long ago that I cannot even pinpoint the exact time.

I remember being taught, firstly by Ivy, who always darned Gramp's socks. She had a basket which seemed to be overflowing with socks which needed darning.  With hindsight they were probably kept in pairs, so she knew which socks went together. I am sure I have a 1940s pattern tucked away somewhere showing how to knit the socks Gramps wore. Ivy knitted socks because Gramps needed hard wearing socks for work.

I know there are many women who still knit socks, and I can think of one lady in particular, but on the whole, I think it is fair to say, nowadays socks are knitted  for pleasure and not necessity. 

It was also one of the things we were taught to do at school during Domestic Science classes.  Along with how to starch a tablecloth and many other domestic duties, which are no longer relevant to today's way of living.

The reason I ask the question, and the reason for my answer is, I discovered my Grandmother Ivy's darning mushroom in one of my unpacked boxes. The darning mushroom is wooden and is quite lovely. The handle has worn smooth due to so much use.

.... so why do I keep these little treasures which are of no use today?

Simply to keep Ivy's memory alive. 

Time slips by, and with each passing year, I have discovered the memories have started to gently fade. I want to stop this happening, I want to hold on to the memories, as tightly as Ivy held my hand, when I was a little girl.  It is many years since Ivy passed away, but I want her memory to burn brightly in my mind. By keeping items which she used, I know her memory will not fade and she will continue to remain in my heart.

.... and someone else who is in my heart, is my lovely daughter Natasha.

.... and she has made a request,

and asked me if I would share my recipe for Sweet Potato Shepherds Pie here on Ivy, Phyllis and Me!

Which of course I am thrilled to do.

I tend to be the type of cook, who, if I do not have the exact ingredients for a recipe, I will look in my store cupboard and see what I can use as an alternative. 

I created this recipe when the Christmas festivities were over.  It was just before New Year's Eve when I had intended to make my Lentil Shepherd's Pie for supper, but I had ran out of a few of the ingredients. I checked to see what vegetables I had to replace the carrot and mushrooms and found an aubergine and red sweet pepper, so I adapted the recipe. 

.... and it was such a hit with everyone, that Natasha wants to replicate the recipe.

So it's on with the pinnie and time to organise the ingredients.



500g or 1 large sweet potato ~ peeled and cut into equal chunks
500g white potatoes ~ peeled and cut into equal chunks
a knob of butter


1 large aubergine ~ topped and tailed then cubed
3 tablespoons of olive oil
2 red onions ~ finely chopped
1 large red sweet pepper, deseeded, cut into cubes
2 cloves of garlic, crushed with salt
60 ml red wine (optional)
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
1 tablespoon of dried oregano
1 400g tin of tomatoes ~ chopped
1 teaspoon of brown sugar
1/2 pint vegetable stock
1 level teaspoon of salt
400g tin of green lentils

Pre-heat the oven to 180C or 160C Fan oven



  Place the sweet potato and potato into a pan of boiling, salted water and cook until tender.

   When tender, strain the water and mash the potato with a knob of butter.

   Replace the lid on the saucepan and set aside until needed.


   Place 1 tablespoon of  olive oil into a wide pan and add the onions.

   Over a moderate heat, cook until the onions are golden brown.

   Whilst the onions are cooking, place 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a separate pan and add the aubergines. Cook until they are starting to brown.

  Add the peppers to the pan and cook for 10 minutes.  You will find the aubergines will continue to brown.

 Add the peppers and aubergines to the cooked onions and stir.

   Add the crushed garlic and cook for a minute.

   Add the oregano, tomato paste to the pan and stir for a further minute.

   Add the wine and turn up the heat to allow the alcohol to evaporate. This will take a couple of minutes.

   Reduce the heat to medium and add the chopped tomatoes. Stir the ingredients together.

   Add the brown sugar to the pan and stir.

  Add the vegetable stock and simmer for 10 minutes. If you find the mixture is becoming too thick, add a cup of water to loosen the mixture.

  Drain the tin of green lentils and rinse under cold running water.

   Add to the pan and simmer for a further 10 minutes.  Again you might find the liquid has reduced too much.  If needs be, add a little more water, but not too much as you do not want the mixture to be too loose.  You want the mashed potato to sit perfectly on top of the vegetables.

   Taste and season as necessary.  I find there is enough salt added when crushing the garlic with salt.

   Place the lentil mixture into a relatively deep pie dish, or as I have done, divide the mixture to make 2 individual portions and 4 larger portions.

  Place the mashed sweet potato/white potato on top.  I find spooning the potato around the edges first, then filling in the centre guarantees that I have an even spread of potato.

  Place in the pre-heated over for 45 minutes until the topping is nice and crispy.

Then all there is left to do,

This is a really healthy supper and you will be surprised to learn, very filling.

I wanted to mention not to worry about the red wine, if you have it, use it, if not, that is fine. Although I do find the red wine adds a nice depth of flavour to the shepherd's pie.

If you prefer to use dried green or brown lentils, then you will need about 40 minutes of cooking time.  When I use dried lentils I put them in a pan to cook first, then I start to peel the potatoes.

I always have tinned lentils in my store cupboard.  I appreciate they are more expensive, but often you can find them on offer and they are perfect for those times when you really need to get a meal on the table quickly.

.... and Natasha.... I hope you enjoyed this Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie.

Take care and I will catch up with you next Thursday.

As Always,

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Dear Friends,

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Best wishes to you.


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