Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Christmas 2010

A white Christmas outside...

.. and a colourful one indoors.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Holiday reading

I've been making the most of my Christmas holidays to do some reading. I've got a pile of library books as well as the books I received as presents.

One of the things I've done to save money is to replace buying of magazines with library books. I've always had a pile of library books on the go - but now I make sure I select some books - such as the two below - which may not provide lots to read, but do provide gorgeous illustrations/and inspiration that I would have looked for in magazines in the past. Two books that fall into this category are -

Homemade by Clodagh McKenna
A recipe for Raspberry Cordial

Table setting inspiration...

Lotte's country kitchen by Lotte Duncan.

An almond and plum cake for pudding for afternoon tea...

An pudding made with autumn berries ...

A spiced winter fruit jelly....that turns into a warming drink ...

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Visit to West Yorkshire

I spent last weekend visiting my Sister in West Yorkshire. We were very fortunate, and chose the one mild weekend this month.

We visited Haworth on Friday afternoon. On Saturday we went to Hebden Bridge and walked through the woods at Hardcastle Crags to Gibson Mill, the National Trust's flagship property for sustainability.

Solar and hydro power are used for lighting etc....and a large biomass stove heats the cafe.

Local produce is used in the cafe and we sampled Tomato, and Wensleydale Soup, followed by Flapjack.

In on of the atmospheric outbuildings they also have composting toilets.

After a wintry walk back through the woods, we explored the beautiful gift shops.
Our favourite florists - Willow Garden -

and a new street of shops we hadn't discovered before, including this one, which sold wonderful things for the home.

It was a lovely weekend, very relaxing and inspiring.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

An unpleasant job

... but someone's got to do it ...and that someone is me.

My hens are moulting in a gentle, a bit at a time, sort of way. I haven't been concerned about it, until the weekend, when I noticed that Belle (the dark grey hen), was devoid of feathers round her vent and neck areas. Then i saw one of the other hens pecking her as she passed. I really did not want this to get out of hand, with them pecking her now bare skin...so I ordered an anti-feather pecking spray by Nettex. It's not as natural a solution as I'd normally like, but I really wanted to nip the behaviour in the bud.

Well, it arrived yesterday and I sprayed her this morning. The spray is meant to be a)Foul tasting to deter pecking and b) anti-bacterial to encourage any wound to heal.
When they say foul they aren't kidding!! It truly stinks. So lets hope it does the trick.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Simple pleasures

At this time of year when it seems to be grey and wet almost every day, simple colourful things give me so much pleasure. Like a mini-cyclamen I bought in the market for the bathroom...

or an Amarylis that my Aunt gave me, which is now in the kitchen window - the buds slowly opening to a heavenly velvety shade of red...

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

The apple harvest

Last Sunday my next door neighbour - who is much happier on ladders than me! - harvested my cooking apples for me.

Unfortunately he has lots of apples of his own, so he didn't want any of them. Since the weekend I've peeled and chopped lots of apples, stewed them and put in bags in the freezer. There are still a lot left!

I also picked a kilo of Sloes to try out a recipe for Sloe and Bramble Cheese...but so far no blackberries.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Balcary Bay

In early September we had a weeks holiday in Scotland...staying in a cottage at Balcary Bay, Auchencairn (near to Castle Douglas).

View of the cottage from the fields, looking toward the bay.

Path to cottage from shore

Loch Mackie

Footpath from Loch Mackie to Rascarrel Bay

Reaching Rascarrel

Rascarrel Bay

Woodland walk near Loch Mackie

Hestan Island from the cottage

Becky enjoying the clifftop footpath

Balcary Bay

Preserving summer part II

I'm reading a wonderful book by Darina Allen at the moment, about forgotten cooking skills....it covers all sorts of fascinating things, like making butter, yoghurt, bread cheese, preserves.....

Lots of Tomatoes in the polytunnel...and whilst on holiday at Balcary Bay we sampled a Chilli dipping sauce. I found it went especially well with baked potato and cheese. So the first recipe I've tried from the book was Tomato and Chilli Jam.

Very simple to make....I concocted it whilst listening to the Archers. I double the recipe and got 4 a bit jars. (I used 4 chillis in the double quantity...and think that will be hot enough for us!)

Another recipe I'm keen to try is Sloe and Bramble Jelly...which she says is good served with Goats Cheese. As I love Goats Cheese....I can't resist. Plus I've always wanted to find something to do with all the gorgeous Sloes I see in the hedgerows....since I don't like alcohol.

I also made some Spiced Carrot & Lentil Soup (a recipe I found on the BBC Good Food site a while ago) for our lunch today. Served with a garnish of fried onions.

It's a very frugal and tasty recipe....just over 1 lb carrots (coarsley grated/5 oz of red lnetils/olive oil/stock/tsp of cumin and pinch of chilli flakes/1 onion.

Preserving summer

I've had a busy weekend. Lovely day out in Corbridge yesterday, with my friend Helen. Lunch at Tea and Tipple in the market place as usual.

Minestrone Soup with nice crusty bread, followed by their heavenly Lemon and Blueberry Cake. Once we were restored we had a wander along the river to make the most of the late summer sunshine, then a gently potter around the shops.

Feeling inspired later in the evening I made a Lemon and Blueberry Cake of my own, based on a recipe I had for Redcurrant Cake, which includes ground almonds and lemon zest and juice. Substituted home grown Blueberries for the currants and served with cream. (the tea shop version had a lemon frosting) Very tasty, the Blueberries are lovely and juicy in a cake.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Lemon Biscuits

Yesterday was my afternoon off and I got round to trying a recipe I've been meaning to make for a while... Lemon Biscuits found on the BBC Good Food website ..


I made them in the food processor (as the butter was straight out of the fridge) so they were very easy and totally delicious. Ideal as I want to make some for my friends when they look after the hens for us.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

River Cottage Chutney

I recently ran out of home-made chutney - a very bad state of affairs, as I like chutney with most savoury things! I even bought a jar (over £3!!!!) - it was Onion Marmalade actually, and was too "stiff". So as the Courgettes are going mad, I decided to get on and make some.

I used the River Cottage recipe which is very adaptable...

1kg marrows/overgrown courgettes, unpeeled but cut into dice no bigger than 1cm (discard seeds from really large marrows) OR 1kg pumpkin, peeled, seeds and soft fibres discarded, and diced no bigger than 1cm
1kg red or green tomatoes, scalded, skinned and roughly chopped OR 1kg plums, stoned and chopped
1kg cooking or eating apples, peeled and diced
500g onions, peeled and diced
500g sultanas or raisins
500g light brown sugar
750ml white wine or cider vinegar, made up to 1 litre with water
1–3 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp salt

for the spice bag
1 thumb-sized nugget of fresh or dried ginger, roughly chopped
12 cloves
12 black peppercorns
1 generous tsp coriander seeds
a few blades of mace

..and in my case I used ripe tomatoes and a mix of red wine vinegar and malt vinegar, as that was all I had and the local store did not have any cider vinegar which I prefer. It took me a few hours, but now I've got 6 and a bit large jars in the cupboard. I really don't like to be without my own Marmalade, Chutney...or jam come to think of it.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

August already

.. this year seems to be flying by. Today I harvested a bed of Broad Beans and we prepared 4lbs of them for the freezer. We love them in stews - they're such a great "meaty" bean.

Also brought home carrots and 2 leeks for dinner - Leek and Cheddar Tarts with Potatoes and Carrots....and Courgettes with which I made an Italian style pickle. I've never tried this before so I'm not sure how they'll taste. They look good in the jars anyway.

The bed which had contained the Broad Beans was looking very dry...so I thoroughly watered it then lay the spent plants, (roots left in soil of course), on top of the soil. This was then completely covered with grass clippings from the cottage garden. This will be left untouched now.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Harvesting and enjoying the food

This week my focus has been on a bit of tidying up at the allotments and eating the harvest!

I'm continuing to be thrilled by how much weeding the mulch has saved....and by the number of worms in the soil now. As I trimmed the edge of the grass path, and then turned over a strip of soil between path and bed I've been amazed by the number of worms..which are obviously loving the grass mulch that has spread onto this area (the blackbirds are always helping this process). So in two short sessions I've got half the garden done.

We are now harvesting Carrots, Kale, Spring Onions, Lettuce, Fennel, Cucumber, Cherry Tomatoes, Redcurrants, Blueberries and lots of Courgettes. The hens are particularly enjoying the Swiss Chard harvest, and we are benefiting from all that green goodness via their eggs.