Flower Planting Lists 2014

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I took the boys geocaching in our local woods today, it’s a new ‘hobby’ for us and I am hoping it’ll get them outdoors with more enthusiasm.  That and I’m clearly a geek and like this kind of thing.

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They do make me laugh, they know photos on the phone get ‘auto’ enhanced, often being but into a motion sequence and C has taken to doing funny poses just for this purpose, I’m not sure if it’ll work in a blog post, but I do hope so.ryarsh wood flowers

The flowers are out in full force, it looks really nice and it reminded me that I have never posted my list for flower planting this year, so here it is :)

February

Cleome Violet Queen H-H Annual

March-April

Amaranthus Caudatus/Love-lies-bleeding Viridis H-H Annual

Salvia Patens/Sage H-H Annual

Schizanthus/Butterfly Plant Dr Badger H-H Annual

Antirrhinum/Snapdragon Liberty Classic Crimson H-H Annual

Aster Matsumoto Crimson & Matsumoto Blue H-H Annual

Didiscus Blue Lace H-H Annual

Tithonia Rotundiflora/Mexican Sunflower H-H Annual

Zinnia Sprite H-H Annual

Cosmos Versailles Tetra, Antiquity, Purity & Dazzler H-H Annual

Molucella Laevis/Bells Of Ireland H-H Annual

Nicotiana Alata/Tabacco Plant Lime Green H-H Annual

Physalis Alkelengi/Chinese Lanterns Perennial

Tragopogan Crocifolius/Salsify Perennial

Agapanthus/African Lily Dark Blue Perennial

Cerinthe Major/Honeywort HA

Nigella Damascena/Love-In-The-Mist HA

Ammi Majus/Bishop’s Flower HA

Euphorbia Oblogata/Spurge HA

Briza Maxima/Greater Quaking Grass HA

Burpleurum/Thorowax HA

Salvia Horminum Blue Clary HA

Centaurea Cyanus/Cornflower HA

Calendula Officinalis/Marigold Art Shades & Indian Prince HA

Nigella Damascena/Love-In-The-Mist Deep Blus HA

September – October

Sweet Pea Painted Lady, Matucana, Midnight & Blue Velevet

Cowslip

I’m not sure how many of the seeds will germinate, many of them are very old so I hope to finish them off and start fresh next year, but I figured if I make a list it’s more likely that I will at least try to remember to sow them!

April Planting…

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This post started with the title ‘Early April Planting’ but I kept forgetting to publish it – sorry about that!

Moving on with the sowing  lists, as the weather is really quite agreeable I’ve started:

Cucumbers Burpless Tasty Green (I totally forgot to buy any other variety seed)

Courgettes Black Forest & Zephyr

Melon Edonis

Sweetcorn Lapwing

Squash Crown Prince, Sweet Dumpling, Gem/Rolet, Queensland Blue, Turks Turban, Hooligan & Barbara Butternut F1 

Peas Twinkle & Purple Mangetouts

Broad Beans Crimson Flowered

Beans Barlotti

I’ve had to reluctantly set mouse traps in the greenhouse.  I’ve tried the live and let live method but the little critters are taking over the veg patch and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to grow anything without them eating it (the Alpine strawberries) or stealing the seed (any kind of pea or bean), so I’m taking action.

I’ve also started some Thai Basil, Lemon Grass, Parcel, Mint and Coriander (the last two, using seed saved from last year), all in the greenhouse.

The wild garlic planted in giant pots is doing well, it has self seeded all over the floor so I’ve transplanted the seedlings into a pot and I hope to move the lot under the trees, where we recently removed the lower branches to open up the space and allow for a fence.  I already have some bluebells in there and would like to eventually add wood anemones.

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As it has taken me so long to actually publish this post, it’s now Easter morning (hence the cute guinea pig made by the fabulously talented ‘Miss Bumbles‘ at the top there).  Lucky me, I got a Heston Egg, and very nice it is too.  Sadly the sunshine we’ve been enjoying has given way to rain today, so my photos are shocking, it’s so very dark even up here in my studio (with its wall of glass).  I’ve promised the boys a (in house) egg hunt and then I’ll be cooking a big roast lunch, I should really get on with it!

Happy Easter :)

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The Perfect Day…

It’s the most glorious day outside.  After some frosts earlier this week the sun has finally returned and when working in the garden this morning, I had to stop, as I was too hot in my long-sleeved t-shirt!

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From my last post list, the following are happily growing.

Tomatoes Brandywine, San Marzano, Tigerella & Ildi

Aubergine Money Maker F1 & Slim Jim 

Sweet Pepper Topepo Rosso, Jumbo Sweet F1 Hybrid & Worldbeater

Chilli (I used some seeds we got for free from a restaurant – no idea of the variety)

The Artichoke and Cape Gooseberry have refused to germinate – boo!  The tomato seeds, as nearly always, all germinated (I put two per jiffy) so I removed one of each.  In past years, I have been weak and have often potted these up, ending with an insane amount of plants and nowhere to put them.  I’ve learnt from that mistake :)

Today, I have planted direct:

Radish French Breakfast, Sparkler & Cherry Bell

Beetroot Pablo & Bolthardy

Carrots Yellowstone, Rainbow Hybrid, Purple Haze, Healthmaster & Sugarsnax

Lettuce various varieties

I have so much more I had hoped to get started, but I forgot to buy soil yesterday – oops!

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The spring flowers are doing really well, in the borders we’re moving on from anemone ‘blanda blue-flowered’ and aconite Eranthis hyemalis ’ to grape hyacinth, snake’s head fritillary and narcissi plus the tulips are also about to give their show, which is always a pleasure.  As always, there are anemone in the cutting patch and loads of hellebore dotted around the borders (as they are one of my favourites).

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I picked the first rhubarb today, to make bellinis for Mother’s Day.  I am home alone with the boys, but I have some mini prosecco bottles in the fridge so why not?  I used Jamie Oliver’s recipe found here, only I cut the rhubarb really small as I quite like some little bits of it in the bottom of the bellini glass to nibble on once the drink is gone.  Oh and I also made it in the microwave, as all my pans were in the dishwasher.

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Sorry of you read both my blogs as this is a repeat, but as I know I wont be getting anything for the day itself (poor me – ha ha) I bought myself some chocolates which I will, of course, share with the boys.

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As always when I’m on my own (my husband works away every so often) I plan food ahead.  For tomorrow’s Sunday lunch I’ve just made the ‘gravy’ for sausage casserole using this Delia recipe as a base.  I’ve actually used beer and stock for the liquid, not red wine and I have to cook the bacon lardons on the side as my youngest is vegetarian (he thinks eating animals is mean, and I respect his view even though the rest of us do eat meat).  I’ll also cook the sausages separately tomorrow, again so Charlie can have his favourite vegi ones. For tonight, we’re having homemade pizza, so the boys can choose their own toppings.  I just did a quick Delia Toasted Sweetcorn Salsa to have on the side, as I love it and if I leave the tabasco and tomatoes out the boys will eat it.  I am sooo far ahead, we’ve even finished topic homework – go me.

Right, I’m off to get the pizza base started :)

Vegetable Planting Lists 2014…

Long time no see.

Why?  Well because I’m rubbish, AND all it’s done here since Christmas is rain…and rain…and rain some more.  The road in front of the boys school has been flooded, prompting a welly wade each morning to get in and some interesting driving to get there.  We are, however, extremely lucky that our house has stayed warm and dry and (mostly) with electricity, which is more than can be said for many poor folk around here, not to mention all those on the south-west of the UK.

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Still, even if I can’t go out and work in the garden (the ground is simply too wet), I can plan, so for the first time this year the seed box has come out so I can see what I hope to grow this year, ideally using up all old seed before buying any new.

Here’s what I’ve got so far (not including succession sowing and in some cases to be started indoors or under cloches):

FEBRUARY

Tomatoes Brandywine, San Marzano, Tigerella & Ildi

Aubergine Money Maker F1 & Slim Jim 

Sweet Pepper Topepo Rosso, Jumbo Sweet F1 Hybrid & Worldbeater

Chilli (I need to buy new seeds, not sure what variety yet)

Artichoke Violette di Chioggia

Cape Gooseberry Giant

MARCH

Spinach Bordeaux

Cucumbers Burpless Tasty Green (I will probably add another variety)

Courgettes Black Forest & Zephyr

Melon Edonis

Radish French Breakfast, Sparkler & Cherry Bell

Broad Beans Crimson Flowered & Super Aquadulce

Kohl Rabi F1 Hybrid

Peas Twinkle, Oasis (you’ve got to roll with it…sorry!), Jaguar, Balmoral & Purple Mangetouts

Herbs Dill, Chives, Garlic Chives, French Sorrel, Thyme, Mint

APRIL

Swiss Chard Bright Lights & White Silver

Beetroot Pablo & Bolthardy

Sweetcorn Lapwing

Spring Onions Welsh Red Stem & North Holland Blood Red

Pak Choi Mei Qing Choi & Rubi

Beans Barlotti

Broccoli Red Arrow & Rudolph & Kailaan No 2

Carrots Yellowstone, Rainbow Hybrid, Purple Haze, Healthmaster & Sugarsnax

Turnip Sweetball & Snowball

Lettuce various varieties

Herbs Thai Basil, Sweet Basil, Winter Savory and many more…

Squash Crown Prince, Sweet Dumpling, Gem/Rolet, Queensland Blue, Turks Turban, Hooligan & Barbara Butternut F1 

AUGUST &  SEPTEMBER

Pak Choi Tatsoi

Fennel Romanesco

Spinach Perpetual (Leaf Beat)

Purslane

ANYTIME

Kale Cavolo Nero & Red Russian

Herbs Parcel, Cress (Bubbles)

There are also potatoes and I’m sure I’ve forgotten many other things.

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April has rather taken over my box, it has been given a section all of its own.  As succession seeds are used the packets will get moved to their ‘next’ timing slot (in a feeble attempt to keep up with the sowing).

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On a totally random note, look when I found in our small loft space yesterday, that, my friends, is the biggest wasps nest ever!  See how happy C is to be holding it.

DSC_0159It’s very pretty close up, you can see all the layers of different wood the wasps have used to create the delicate structure, I hope to get some better photos before donating it to school.

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Since starting this post, a few days ago, we have seen sunshine!  Not huge amounts, but enough to cheer the soul, which along with some happy sewing (new Auricula brooches for the shop) has really made the end of this dismal winter look possible.  Roll on spring :)

Christmas Cookery Books and Crown Devon…

Finally, we are on the last day of the school term – hurrah! After this afternoon’s Carols in the playground, there will be lovely relaxed mornings without me yelling at the boys to get ready for school over and over….sadly, they will still both be up at 6am, but that can’t be changed.

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I’ve been re-reading my Christmas cookery books, looking for ideas.  I still really love the ‘new’ Delia Christmas one (I have the first Christmas book she did, as well), partly for the styling as well as the actual recipes, the vintage baubles and white backgrounds are pretty much my own taste and the recipes (including many re-worked from her ‘Winter’ cookbook) are, as always, fabulous.  I make her mincemeat every year, and if I do make a cake it’s also from this book.

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I also enjoyed re-reading Nigella’s Christmas book.  There are some nice canape ideas that I’d forgotten about.  This is the book that started the trend on collecting Crown Devon ‘Stockholm’ china, as it’s used in the photos (and, I believe, in the accompanying TV series).  More on the later.

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New this year and not strictly a Christmas book, is the The Great British Winter Kitchen.  I haven’t cooked anything from this yet but I’ve really enjoyed reading it.  The recipes look great and contain simple ingredient lists (it reminds me a lot of Jamie Oliver, if I’m honest).  My kind of book.

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Back to the Crown Devon ‘Stockholm’.  So, I remember mentioning some time ago, that I wouldn’t jump on the bandwagon in collecting this, instead I’d stick with the (much cheaper and easier to find) Royal Doulton ‘The Coppice’.

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What can I say?  I buckled.  I am weak.  Over the years I have watched this grow ever more expensive and more difficult to find and this year, I just couldn’t resist adding a few bits to my clutter.   My lovely SIL bought me a couple of pieces for my 40th, and I especially love the ‘tennis’ plate and cup.

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From collecting the Coppice, I know what pieces are the most useful to me, with this in mind I’ve managed to buy some tureens, by far the nicest things, I think, they have such a pretty shape and I like the detail of the little red line painted around the base.  I love having tureens for serving vegetables on a special roast lunch (or Christmas dinner!).  I’ve also bought some little fruit bowls and a jug (for serving Christmas pudding, naturally).  In an ideal word, I’d have a platter for the turkey (but don’t think there is a large one with this collection, only meat plates that are a bit small) and maybe a sandwich set with square platter and plates.  Ideally.  But this is expensive stuff to collect, so I’m stopping here, for now at least.

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In the garden, it’s all just very wet and soggy.  We have a lot of fog going on around here, that sits in our little dip all day, only lifting in the afternoon, if we’re lucky.  I still have chard, kale, spring onions, horseradish root and some old beetroot.  The garlic is in.  I’ve missed planting broad beans and sweet peas….oh well.  I’m happy to leave the garden now until January, when I’ll start obsessively reading seed catalogues and planning next year.

For those that celebrate it, I hope you have a fabulous Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Getting Ahead For Christmas…

Now we are under that 1 month marker, I’ve started putting things into the freezer for our Christmas Lunch.  It’s only us this year (which has never happened before) so we are having goose and as I don’t fancy spending the day on my own, in the kitchen (our house is sort of open plan-ish so I’m exaggerating here, plus I do actually like cooking, but I plan to spend the morning drinking champers and watching the boys open gifts!), I also had quite a few things about to go out of date, so I figured I’m make up what I could, at this point.

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I’ve talked about this before, but bird of any kind means that bread sauce and the Foster family recipe stuffing balls HAVE to be made.  I also figured that as I regularly make flavoured butter rolls for the freezer (anchovy and capers to go with broccoli, mummmmm) I didn’t see any reason not to make a roll of brandy butter, so I can chop slices off to eat with mince pies as well as some for the pudding on the day itself.  Oh and I also made rum sauce and some 18th Century Chestnut Stuffing, courtesy of Delia, as these, too, freeze really well.

I’ve posted all the recipes before, but ages ago, so here they are again:

Brandy Butter

110g Unsalted Butter

1 Raw Egg Yolk

350g Sifted Icing Sugar

2 Tbls Brandy

Rind of 1 Orange

Cream together the butter, orange rind and half the sugar.  Beat till fluffy, add egg yolk, the rest of sugar and brandy, beat again then chill.

(I have frozen mine rolled in baking parchment, then foil in a long sausage shape, so I can cut off discs to use as and when needed).

Rum Sauce

60g Butter

60g Plain Flour

570ml Whole Milk

50g Caster Sugar

6-8 Tbls Dark Rum (or more!)

Place the butter, flour and milk into a saucepan.  Using a balloon whisk keep stirring the whole time, heat over a medium heat until thickened.

Turn the heat down, stir in the sugar, heat slowly for 10 mins, stirring all the time to ‘cook’ the sauce.  Next, stir in the rum and cover the surface with cling film to stop a skin from forming until ready to serve (needs to be served warm so you can reheat in the pan, or in a microwave, if needed)

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Great Gran Foster’s Stuffing Balls

110g Fresh white breadcrumbs

50g suet (you can use vegetable or beef)

1 x Egg

Fresh or dried thyme (my family all use dried, but I actually prefer fresh)

Lemon rind and juice of half a lemon

Basically mix all the ingredients together, with seasoning, and roll into small balls about the size of a walnut.  Cook for about 30 mins, I usually pour a little oil over then to get them started.

Bread Sauce

1 Lrg onion

15-20 Cloves (depending how ‘clovey’ you like it, less if you’re not keen)

1 Bay Leaf

1 Pint whole milk

2/3 Loaf of white bread, crusts removed and blitzed into crumbs (I used to just cut it roughly with a bread knife into smallish bits when I was a student)

Knob of Butter

Seasoning

Grate of nutmeg, if you fancy it

You basically peel and cut the onion in half then stud with the cloves (I stick a fork in the skin and push the cloves into the holes) add to the milk, with the bay leaf, bring to the boil, take of the heat and leave for at least an hour to infuse.

When you are ready to serve, reheat the milk, remove onion, cloves and bay and add the breadcrumbs (add more milk of needed, or more breadcrumbs, it should be quite thick).  Let it heat through slowly for a while so the bread swells and goes mushy, then season (and grate nutmeg if using) and serve with a blob of butter on top.

My version of Delia’s 18th Century Chestnut Stuffing (I’ve linked to the original at the beginning of this post)

100g Fresh breadcrumbs

200g Cooked Peeled Chestnuts (I use Vacuum packed pre-prepared)

Parsley – good handful

1 Lrg Onion ( diced  and softened in butter and stone cold if you plan to freeze stuffing raw)

330g Sausage Meat (I just use a pack of sausages as I like organic)

100g streaky bacon

Good grating of nutmeg

Use a processor to pulse the breadcrumbs, parsley, chestnuts and seasoning together (not too small) remove and place in a large bowl.

Now use the processor to dice the onion, cook this on a low heat until soft (about 8-10 mins).  Add to the bowl (allow to go completely cold first, if you plan to freeze the stuffing raw) along with the diced bacon (I cut with scissors directly into the bowl) and sausage meat.  Squelch together with your hands and use to stuff the neck of the bird, or cook in a separate dish.  I freeze it raw, ready to de-frost and cook when needed.

Deer Apron Cut Out Shadow

All the above was done with me flouncing about in my new deer apron (made for The Shop).

On a linked note, you would not believe the debate in our house over goose verses turkey for the ‘big day’…..we are all for goose (including my youngest, who is a vegetarian but likes to have a say) except my oldest, who keeps shouting for turkey.  I keep changing my mind, but have to finalise it as the Ocado delivery is booked and I could do without forgetting to remove one from my basket and then find myself paying for both!

I’ve just noticed that it’s snowing on the blog – hurrah! I always get excited when that happens :)

Gran’s Christmas Pudding…

I really felt like baking this weekend, but I’m on a diet that restricts my shovelling flour, butter and sugar into my mouth (believe me, it’s for the best) and with a new sudden interest in Christmas (I had been feeling quite apprehensive about the first one without Mum, to the point where I was avoiding thinking about it, but I’ve now taken on her ‘you can’t change it so get on with it and enjoy’ attitude) I decided to make a christmas pudding and some mincemeat.

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As always, I used my Gran’s recipe, I’ve blogged it before, here, but below are the details again:

Ingredients

85g  Fresh white breadcrumbs

85g  Suet

85g Currants

85g  Raisins

85g  Sultanas

35g Candid Peel (finely chopped)

15g  Glace Cherries (chopped)

15g  Almonds (chopped)

100g Soft Brown Sugar

Pinch Salt

1/2 Tsp Mixed Spice

Grating of Nutmeg

1/2 Carrot, Grated

1 Tbls Brandy

Grated zest of 1/4 Orange and Lemon

Mix all the above in a bowl and leave overnight.

1/4 Pint Milk

1/2 Tbls Treacle

1 Lrg Egg (beaten)

Mix the above wet ingredients (next day) and then add to the bowl and stir well.

50g SR Flour

Add sifted flour, mix well and pack into a bowl (about 600ml capacity).  Cover with 2 layers of baking parchment and 1 layer of foil, with a fold in the middle for expansion, tie around tightly with string and add a handle for lifting the pudding out of the pot.  Steam for 5-6 hours then, when completely cold, replace backing parchment and foil with new.

It’s a lovely pudding and, as with most versions, can be kept for months before eating; we have, on occasion, eaten one made the year before that’s been stored away in a dark cupboard and it’s been perfectly good.

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I took the time to pick through the dried fruit, removing any left over stalks.  This always makes me think of Gran, she used to have trays and trays of fruit running up to the festive season and she’d sit for hours picking them over.  You don’t need to do this, but the stalks can taste gritty when you bite into them, especially in mincemeat.

When you are ready to eat it, you need to steam the pud again, Delia says for about 2 hours, but then that’s for a bigger pudding, so maybe you could steam for less time?  I know you can also microwave it, but you’ll need to Google that one.

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Mistakes? Yep, I made a few.  I used a 500ml pudding bowl which was clearly a bit small, there was some room left for expansion when cooking, but seeing the dome it formed on top as it cooked, not enough.  I should have gone for a 600ml, or even 700ml one.  Also, I realised just as I started to steam the pudding that I’d used plain flour instead of self-raising – doh!  I simply scraped the raw pudding mix onto a big plate and added the relevant baking powder and bicarbonate of soda, mixing it in well.  Gran used both with plain flour in her original version, so it should work out fine.  I also revised the cooking time from my earlier post to 5-6 hours steaming after Mum laughed at the 8 I’d originally gone for some years ago, to be fair, it did say 8 in recipes I’d used as references but probably for much bigger puddings.  I notice I reduced Gran’s flour after cross checking with Delia versions, no idea why, maybe I’ll up it back to the original quantities next year.

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I’ve ordered some charms from Vivi Celebrations, I’m planning to cheat and tuck them under the pudding when it’s served, probably wrapped in little squares of greaseproof paper, that way everyone gets one and there is less chance of the boys choking on them.  I’m liking this shop, if money were no option I’d definitely have gone for the super deluxe versions!

Whilst I was making the pudding, I though it would be interesting to check out Mrs Beeton’s versions, I was quite interested to see that at least one of the plum puddings is almost identical.  I hope you can enlarge the photo below, should you wish to see the details.

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I’ve genuinely enjoyed this weekend’s cooking (I also made some of Delia’s Mincemeat as I had so much dried fruit in), it makes me feel connected with people sadly no longer here.  My husband and I argue often on this subject, he sometimes feels ‘suffocated’ by my need for nostalgic objects and rituals from the past, but I find great comfort in them (although I appreciate living with me and all my junk must be very stressful for him).  I enjoy knowing I’m keeping traditions alive, I still always make bread sauce in the way my family always have and their stuffing balls whenever we roast a bird (I’ll blog the recipes when I next make them) and I quite like that my boys are growing up with this same traditions, revised where necessary to make them our own….I say that, but they are both letting me down on the bread sauce side as they wont eat it, I’ll keep trying and slowly wear them down ;)