Monday, 25 January 2010

come drawing

We'll be welcoming Kate Hardy on 16th February for another life drawing class. Our last session with Kate was brilliant and we are looking forward to seeing her again to brush up our skills. We'll be meeting as usual at 7.30pm for a prompt 8pm start at Chisenhale Art Gallery. Free to members, £3 entry for non-members. Tea and coffee will be provided though you are welcome to bring a bottle or share your baking too if you wish. All materials will be provided on the night, so no need to bring your pencil sharpeners.

We hit the road for our 19th February coffee morning for an exclusive visit to the new Ministry of Food exhibition where we will see our jam and pickle among the exhibits! Please make your own way to the Imperial War Museum to arrive by 9.30am (map here). This should be a great exhibition - for a quick taste, visit the IWM's Ministry of Food blog.

Looking forward to seeing you.

Friday, 22 January 2010


Yesterday we tackled pickles and chutneys, the final stage in our Ministry of Food project - pickled onions, pickled beetroot and red tomato chutney. There wasn't a dry eye in the house...

With five of us involved, there was a lot going on at once. Skinning tomatoes, chopping onions, boiling and slicing beetroot. I'd brined the raw onions a couple of days before, so they were washed to remove the salt. The vinegar was simmered with a mix of pickling spice and we were set. Onions and beetroot were packed separately into jars and covered with vinegar. Hey presto!

Making the chutney took a bit longer with the chopping of the onions, apples and tomatoes, then long simmering with sultanas, sugar and vinegar until it reached a nice jammy consistency. We soon learnt that it is not sensible to get too close to the vinegary fumes unless you are prepared to weep - the dreaded "chutney eye". ( I don't think the doyenne of the wartime kitchen, Marguerite Patten, mentioned this hazard in her book - maybe we just didn't read that bit!)

It really is most satisfying to see the fruits of your endeavours lined up neatly. Now it's just a question of waiting a few weeks until the goods are properly mature and ready to eat. Not that anyone at the Imperial War Museum will be eating it when the exhibition opens on the 12th February...

I'm getting used to the smell of vinegar permeating the house. As for us, it's not true that we were pickled. Just happy with our evening's work.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Da Doo Ron Ron

Oh, Cynthia, we love you! Not only did you cycle to our meeting, you got us all singing and smiling like we were born to perform.

I don't think I've ever seen so many smiling faces and such exhilaration.

We were doing brilliantly... until we had a go at "Jerusalem". We might need just a bit more practice if we decide to try again.

Cynthia - there's no other. You are the leader of the pack. Come again!

Sunday, 17 January 2010


Great night at Giraffe in Spitalfields Market for our EEWI New Year meal. Looks like there was some serious thinking going on here. Another glass of wine perhaps? Or shall I have a pudding?

Many thanks to Niki for organising the event, to Jo for her nifty work with the bill and to everyone who joined in and made this so welcoming for everyone!

We should do this more often...

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

rhubarb, rhubarb... and carrots

Lots more friendly womanly chat today as we set about making our second batch of jam for the Imperial War Museum. Today Rhubarb and Ginger Jam and Carrot Jam were on the menu, again two different approaches to preserving.

Carrot Jam
Annie set off chopping around two and a half pounds of carrots which we had to cook and puree. This turned out to be more time consuming than we thought. The peeling and chopping wasn't so bad, but the carrots - which required a small (unspecified) amount of water took ages to cook and then had to be mashed and sieved to a puree. This work just about produced the required pint of puree which, when mixed with a pound of sugar, lemon rind, and 2 and a half tablespoons of lemon juice, went into the jam pan.

With such a small amount, we kept a careful watch to make sure that it didn't burn. It was quite difficult to tell whether setting point was reached as it was not syruppy at all so we had to use some judgement about when it was jammy enough. We added some almonds and a tablespoon of brandy before bottling - the jam won't keep without the alcohol. Our reward was a lovely deep orange jam, with an apply taste, sharpened by the lemon rind.

Ingredients: 1 pint of carrot puree, 1 lb of sugar, 1 lemon, half and ounce of sweet almonds ( we used flaked), a tablepoon of brandy. Recipe from Bombers and Mash by Raynes Minns.

Rhubarb and Ginger
The rhubarb and ginger jam was a much more straightforward affair. Two pounds of chopped rhubarb were covered in the same amount of sugar and left to steep for an hour (should have been longer!).

While we waited we set to chopping and squeezing and grating the added ingredients.

We put the rhubarb and sugar mixture into the jam pan the added lemon juice and three well heaped tablespoons of chopped preserved ginger; heated this gently until the sugar dissolved; and then boiled briskly until setting point was reached. We used Annie's aged sugar thermometer and the cold plate test just to make sure we didn't overcook the jam this time. Result - another richly amber-coloured jam with a lovely sharp taste, warmed through with the ginger.

Ingredients: 2lb rhubarb, 2lb sugar, 2 tablespoon of lemon juice, 4 tablespoons of preserved ginger chopped. Recipe from Basic Basics, Jams, Preserves and Chutneys Handbook by Marguerite Patten.

Our display jams have been stored in original style kilner jars and out excess in more readily available plain jars with waxed inserts and cellophane lids. Annie showed us how to dampen the cellophane tops before putting them on the open jars to get a tight seal. Aha!

Next up - tomato chutney, pickled beetroot and pickled onions. There'll be tears before bedtime.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

sticky fingers

Our project to make jam for the Imperial War Museum started in earnest today with our first jam making session. Thanks, as ever, go to Sorella, for sharing her kitchen, shiny new jam pan and chocolate and beetroot cake - to keep us going, don't ya know?; and to WeeNa, Veronika and Elizabeth for mashing, stirring, chopping, measuring, pouring and observing the strictest standards of hygiene. An absence of blackberries put paid to our plans for blackberry and apple jam, so we opted for raspberry and the results were pretty good - rich, red ruby colour and firm set. And I can say with some confidence that the taste was good too because I had some on toast tea today. A reminder of summer on a wintry afternoon.

We also tried our hand(s) at some dried apricot jam. This was a little hit and miss - the recipe was quite different, with lots more liquid and some pre-boiling. The recipe was not quite as descriptive as we would have liked and we lost our nerve a bit which resulted in a wee bit of overboiling. Still, we came home with some sample pots and will let you have our verdict on the taste. I'll also include a post here on the books we have used and what we have learnt from the whole experience.

Our next jam making session is next Tuesday when we will be trying out two more wartime recipes - rhubarb and ginger, and carrot. Interesting, eh?

new year frolics and revels

So you thought the festivities were over. Not so. This month is all frolics and revels. We'll be starting off with our New Year meal at Giraffe in Spitalfields on 15th January - please arrive by 7pm.

Our first meeting in 2010 is a singing workshop on Tuesday 19th January, 7.30 for 8 at our usual meeting place - Chisenhale Art Gallery. Cynthia Gerald, who leads local choir Soundz Universal, will be taking us through our paces. This is going to be an exhilarating evening whether you are a singer or not, so do come along. Free to members, £3 for guests. Feel free to bring something to keep your vocal chords lubricated if you wish!

Our coffee morning this month is a new venue for us - the Departure Arts Centre at 649 Commercial Road, E14 7LW. We'll be meeting at 11am (note - this is half an hour later than usual) on Friday 22nd January.

Those of you who have opted to see Legally Blond at the end of the month should be hearing from us shortly about ticket arrangements. (You lucky people - the reviews have been brilliant!)

Phew! Busy start to a bright New Year....come join us.

2009 review

We were busy weren't we? Do let us have some feedback on what you enjoyed most.


Dear All,

I didn’t seem to find enough time around the AGM to do a report of the year and felt that now would be good time for a reflection on the past twelve months of the EEWI. This will be the third term that I have been President of the EEWI after setting the branch up with Sorella Le Var in 2007 when we really had no idea what was going to happen and how the group was going to pan out. In 2009 the EEWI really began to grow and currently we have around 300 people on our mailing list , over 50 members and consistently have around 35 people at our evening meetings. At the most recent coffee morning we actually had over 20 people which is a triumph in itself.

Sorella and I decided some time ago that as well as evening meetings we needed to put on a coffee morning for those women who, for whatever reason, can’t or don’t want to go out in the evenings. After a very difficult start where we met at Chisenhale Art gallery and….. well, drank coffee, we realised we needed to venture out to the cafes of our local community. It turned out to be a wonderful idea taking us to a number of venues that we might not have visited before, some that we might not go to again and others that some of us have since been back to more than once. In 2009 we visited The Tower of London, Whitechapel Art Gallery , the Museum of Docklands , St Margaret’s House Gallery CafĂ©, La Bouche in Broadway Market, Hackney City Farm, the Museum of Childhood and the Geffrye Museum . I love the coffee mornings as its a really great way to meet each other in a more relaxed way than in the evenings and to meet new people who prefer the daytime events. The tough part of the coffee mornings of course is having to eat lots of cake and coming up with ideas for future coffee venues .

In the evenings this year we have been lucky enough to meet some amazing people and try out some really interesting skills. Since January we have done DIY with Home Jane, we’ve met Moira Cameron, the first female Beefeater at the Tower of London (who has since become a member of EEWI), we’ve tried life drawing with Kate Hardy, learnt about Homeopathy with Tracy Karkut-Law, discovered knitting with Prick Your Finger, made some Morsbags, met the charming Richard Reynolds and learnt about his Guerilla Gardening campaign, welcomed Neil Walker of the London Organisational Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympics Games (LOCOG), knitted Christmas decorations, made chocolate Florentines, created origami boxes and taken part in some Christmas flower arranging. On top of this at our resolutions meeting in May we voted to take on a campaign to save honey bees and pollenators and have incorporated bees into our AGM in November where some of you took the opportunity to showcase how very talented you all are in the arts and crafts world – baking, sewing, poetry, art, knitting and more, all on a bee theme. We’ve had quizzes and raffles, jewellery stalls and a number of charity speakers.

Its been a packed year in terms of our evening meetings but it doesn’t stop there. We have run really successful tea and cake stalls at Paradise Gardens , the St Barnabas Community Fete, Sportsjam, Friend’s of Mile End Park ’s Park Life, the Mayor’s story of London festival at Three Mills as well as supporting smaller events by donating our refreshment equipment or baking. We’ve performed in a dance festival, marched to stop violence against women, taken part in Earth Hour, walked for charity, been to see Calendar Girls and Hairspray in the West End and represented Essex Federation at the Annual General Meeting of the National Federation of Women’s Institute at the Royal Albert Hall.

Through the group’s commitment and generosity we have raised money, awareness and support for a number of charities, not least the U-Turn Women’s Centre, a charity very close to my heart. The idea that a group of local women support a charity run by women to support women in crisis seems to make perfect sense to me and I hope we are able to continue our support in the coming years especially the Christmas present project which once again in 2009 was overwhelmingly supported meaning that Rio was able to take a huge bag of presents back to the women’s centre for their Christmas party.

There is so much more, some that I have forgotten but far too much to include here. We have been extremely busy and have had brushes with TV and radio as well as being invited to take part in all sorts of projects, but for me personally the best part of being involved in the EEWI is that I have met so many wonderful, interesting and inspirational women. I’ve heard some amazing life stories, seen friendships form and, I hope, made some new friends myself. I have seen the EEWI as a real support for some and know that it has made an impact on the local community. I could not feel more proud to be involved in this group and am extremely excited about 2010. This will be my last term as President and I am looking forward to the next twelve months and to supporting the next person in any way I can.

Thanks to everyone who has been involved in the last twelve months, especially the committee who I consider to be some of my dearest friends, but also to all of those people who joined, came along, tried something new, baked, enjoyed themselves, helped out, or in fact did anything at all because all of you are what makes the group what it is.

Here’s to 2010

Niki Stevens, President EEWI