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We had 22 for lunch on Saturday and have gradually dwindled back down to only five people in the house last night.

I dropped my eldest off in his new student house in Bristol yesterday. It was spotlessly tidy – strange with six of them there – and is right next to Gloucester Road. It only seems five mins ago I was picking him up on a burning hot summer’s day at the end of last term when waked through Ashley Down admiring the Christmas decorations and a few car boot sales worth of perfectly good possessions students had put out with their bins.  Increased tuition fees didn’t seem to have impacted on their consumption.

Family get-togethers are large – due to a tendency to keep on having children ’til we’re ancient. Lively – due to lots of small kids and difficult to cook for if you’re not a brilliant cook (me) and try to accommodate our collective wide range of allergies.

I used to always make lentil soup until I found out it wasn’t only my sons who hated it, my nieces did too and then the final death of the lentil soup arrived when one of my nephews became severely allergic to beans and lentils.

Our American cousins had brought maple syrup with them from their family farm.  We thought it would be great sharing it together on pancakes with extra butternut squash risotto, salad and cheeses.   I texted a list of ingredients, but to only one side of the family – big mistake – got the OK and off I went.

The pancakes went down well, especially once I got two pans on the go.  My humble assistant make some impromptu mini pizzas as an extra, ingredients not discussed or circulated.  They were delicious but the molten slabs of mozzerella concealed hot pesto containing…de de daaa crushed pine nuts.  You can guess the rest.

My poor eldest niece who, we found out later, is supposed to be wheat and dairy free munched into one triggering a horrendous afternoon of vomiting.

It wasn’t a total failure as for the first time ever two people asked for the recipe (!)

Any suggestions for a meal for around 20 people excluding: nuts, fish, beans, pulses lentils, raw carrots, raw apples, dairy and wheat?  The last two can be included in separate dishes as the ones who can’t eat wheat and dairy are unlikely to keel over from the fumes from other people’s plates.  Sadly a S E Asian food fest would finish most of us off.

Also need a guide to healthy eating & cooking on a limited budget that must fit on two sides of A4 and include recipes – for my eldest at his request.  I have got as far as trying to work out the recommended daily amounts of carbohydrates and how that translates into bread and potatoes.

I’ve been putting the first of my Victorian needles in my shop.

Flora MacDonald Victorian sewing needles

Flora MacDonald Victorian sewing needles

The packets are little works of art.  Only another 18 packets to go…………..


Catherine xx