Rhubarb Chutney and Guilt…

Apparently, I write lots of posts but never publish them.  Seriously, I found loads in my draft area….it could be that I did publish them as part of a re-named post and I’ve just forgotten (if so, sorry) but as it seems a shame to have put the time into writing them in the first place, I’ve decided to get them up updated and press the button to finally make them live.

DSC_0001The below post was written some time last year, since then I have bought a larder cupboard, which was a great investment for me as the kitchen here has very little storage (due to the two walls of glass, that give an amazing outlook into the garden, but at the price of space to put units).  I painted it myself to save money (it was a bit of a labor of love), in ‘Elephant’s Breath’ Farrow and Ball paint as I had two unused tins that were supplied about 10 years ago as part of the kitchen fitting (it’s the colour used inside the wall glass units in there).

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It has made a big difference to me as I have all my jams and jellies in there now, along with loads of kitchen gadgets that otherwise would be cluttering up the work surfaces.  It means I can easily get to everything instead of hunting under the stairs when I need a new jar of jam, which I’m often too lazy to do.

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I also found an awesome way of using up marmalade, in this BBC recipe for Bitter Orange and Cardamom Martinis.  They are seriously amazing, especially if you freeze the mixture and leave it for a while, it turns into a blow-your-socks-off grown up kind of slushi.  Lush.  Yes, I am – ha ha ha!  Not really.

Anyhow, back to the post as written some time last year…or maybe even the year before:

I’ve decided to make chutney for the first time in years, largely out of guilt that the rhubarb grows so well in our garden, but then often sits uneaten, despite trying out various ways of using it up (I blame the kids, rhubarb, like my lovely pink gooseberries just don’t rock their boat no matter how I present it).  To add to that guilt, and explain why I haven’t made chutney for years, below is a list of what is lurking in the cupboard, under the stairs, where I keep all my preserves (with links to their making, where appropriate).

You see the problem?  Look at those year dates.  I LOVE making jams and jellies, however no-one but me eats them, and as I’m seriously off bread (love it but it doesn’t love me, or my waistline) the poor jam gets left…for years, apparently!  The strawberry jam is no problem, Charlie loves it and gets through it quite swiftly.  When I do give in and eat toast, I will go for the blackcurrant jam or marmalade so I’m slowly working through that backlog.  I try to make puddings and cakes with the marmalade, but I have to be careful as the boys soon tire of the flavour if made too often, I even once tried to make myself chuck all the really old jams, but the honest truth was upon opening them they were perfectly fine, in fact more than fine and I just can’t justify throwing it away.  The fruit jellies will get eaten this year as sausages are appearing frequently on the menu, especially now BBQ season is upon us.’

To add to my guilt, also hiding in the cupboard are the following bottles:

  • 2 x Pontack (elderberry potion for adding to stews etc)
  • 4 x Cassis
  • 3 x Rumtopf Juice
  • 2 x Seville Gin (only just ready so not opened yet)

I’m not too worried about the above list, I’m sure I’ll happily get through that, given time 😉

So, knowing the above, why am I making chutney?  Well, because my youngest (the strawberry jam eater) yet again comes to my rescue, he’s taken to loving cheese and chutney sandwiches so I’m using it as an excuse to make some chutney, which I haven’t done for a long time.  I’ve learnt my lesson though, and I’m only making a half batch using this recipe from River Cottage.

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What else?  My sister came over for lunch on Sunday and instead of flowers, she brought me a bunch of asparagus, celery tops and herbs from her garden, which was a lovely gift…..I am seriously considering adding an asparagus bed to the garden, I know I’ll have to wait years before cropping any but it tasted so delicious freshly picked that it might just have to happen.

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There was some added protein on the parsley leaves.  I love these little tiny snails at the moment, they are popping up all over the place in the garden, I suspect I wont be quite so happy when the slugs and snails eat all my crops due to my not using nemetodes this year.  Also, really, REALLY annoyingly iPhotos has totally changed and I can no longer edit photos as precicely as I could.  I’m gutted as I had got quite comfy with the editing tools and rather relied on them to seriously improve my photos, it’s going to be a nightmare for taking my shop images, I’m just going to have to learn photoshop, I guess, life is so hard 😉

 

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The Foster Family Zoo

As I’ve just spent the last hour sitting at the kitchen table, drinking peppermint tea and staring into the garden, I thought I should actually do something instead and finally writing a blog posts didn’t seem like a bad idea.  In an attempt to ‘catch-up’, I looked through my photos since I last wrote and most were of animals.  It would appear that we do now reside in a Zoo, which is fitting when you also have two small boys.

Back in August, we added to the two already rescued cats (from the local RSPCA) with an old boy from Battersea, Brands Hatch, called Buster.DSC_0196.jpgHe was lovely.  I say, was, as sadly we had to have him put down a few weeks ago.  He came to use with a rather John Wayne style walk, which turned out to be one fused hip and the ‘worst case of arthritis’ the vets had ever seen in a cat.  He had a successful hip operation but a routine check up afterwards revealed him to be FIV+ and bluntly, he went down hill rather quickly with anemia and had to be put to sleep.  I miss him.  He was fantastically grumpy (I like grumpy cats) but at the same time my sofa companion, as he rarely left it, and he made a cute ‘priiit’ sound when you ticked his ears.DSC_0147To add to the animal drama, Tuppence broke her leg just before Christmas.  She’s recovered well, right now she’s running around the garden like a loon, which I hope the vet doesn’t find out about as she’s supposed to be house bound, but she just made a Houdini like escape when I opened the door to collect a parcel.  Her fur is now growing back and she looks less like she’s had a chicken leg grafted on.MouseWe still get ‘little gifts’ on a regular basis from the remaining cat that is allowed out (crazy cat lady – me? – noooooo).  I manage to rescue quite a few, which seems rather stupid when I spend most of my summer cursing the mice for eating the contents of my vegetable patch.DSC_0185We have hens now, which I think I did mention last year…I need to take some decent photos of the set-up and the hens themselves…I have tried, but they always seem to move just as I press the button.  We did have two Ginger Rangers, but alas, Mabel (above) got eaten last weekend by a fox.  We got to watch it over and over as there is a camera on that part of the garden.  It was quick but I felt bad about my relaxed free ranging style as I do know there are foxes around here, but then I haven’t seen one in the garden for months, and they usually leave their little calling cards around when they do come in.  Luckily, Doris (the other hen) survived and has now been joined by Beryl and Edna.  Nothing like a good old fashioned and totally obvious hen name.PhesantAs it’s shooing season, there are a lot of pheasants around at the moment too, and they are quite nosey, I’ve noticed, often coming right up to the glass of our kitchen window to have a good look it.  I do think Pheasants are rather handsome.DSC_0003The house is full of ladybirds.  We always have lots, I’m not sure if it’s linked, but in the early days here I did buy a few batches of ladybird larvae to keep the aphids under control.  They do this thing when we get late warm days in late autumn or in early spring where they come out of hibernation and swarm all over the house, I did try to capture it (as above) one year, but it’s hard to see just how many there are and how they are flying all over the place as well as crawling on the house walls.  LadybirdsIn winter, I find them asleep in all corners of the house, the ones above were in the shell of the hen house when I recently moved it, there were some very happy spiders hanging out near by, clearly contented with their winter food larder well stocked, so I moved the Ladybirds into a bug house we have in the vegetable garden (partly as I wanted to scrub the henhouse down before putting the new hens in but also because I’m soft and the idea that they are happily sleeping away, all snuggled up together only to be picked off one by one by a spider makes me sad.  I know, I need help).DSC_0166Even my sewing work seems to be dominated by animals.  I’ve been sewing quite a few blinds in animal prints – this Mark Hearld, Harvest Hare print from St Judes was lovely to work with.DSC_0144And my Shop sewing is all rabbits,DSC_0149and swallows (not to mention mice, little hanging robins, deer and many others….it didn’t occur to me just how much of my work involves animal images until writing this post!).DSC_0139There were animals (and quite a lot of gin) finding their way into Christmas gifts this year too.  I was a bit rubbish and only took the above photo, sorry.  Weirdly, having given quite a lot of gin, I received a fair bit too, not that I’m complaining, I do like a nice bottle of gin.DSC_0153The weekend has finally arrived, here in the Foster Zoo, and I think it’s time to get the seed boxes out and start planning,. I’m moving more towards low maintenance plants in the garden, ideally annuals (the above were an add on offer from Thompson & Morgan that I planted up in pots in the greenhouse last autumn, no idea of they are still alive!) and even in the vegetable patch I’m going to keep it simple.  I have very little free time these days, but I really need to keep in top of things, so keeping it simple and tidy is the way to go 🙂